SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Each and every Friday night during high school football season you'll find Junior Garcia with a whistle in hand, patrolling the sidelines, and officiating to the best of his ability.
"Being out on the field and being with the kids and staying active keeps me young."
Junior is definitely the senior member of his officiating crew.
"I'll be 84 in September."
While there has been a steep decline in the number of high school football referees, Junior has been on the sidelines every season since 1972.So of course, this is a very special year, as he begins his 50th year dressed in the black and white stripes and officiating his favorite game.
"50 years! I never thought that I would get here. I never thought about working football for 50 years."
At a time when screaming coaches and overreactive fans have driven referees away, Junior has managed to stay the course.
"I stay under control and just see what happens, let the action on the field play out. Then take charge when I need to."
At 83 years old, Junior says he's slowed down a bit, while at the same time players have gotten bigger and faster. However, there is no place he would rather be on Friday nights from August through November, and he will continue to do so until his body gives out, or he no longer has the passion.
"Like I say, if my body can't keep up with it, or it's not fun for me, it's fun right now and still is, but when it's not I'm out of here."
Junior once had a dream of becoming an NFL official but it never worked out. No worries he says, as he has had a very rewarding time on the high school fields