Adrian Hill
Hill in 2020
Born1964 or 1965 (age 58–59)[1]
EducationUniversity at Buffalo (BS)
Johns Hopkins University (MS)[2]
Occupation(s)NFL official (2010–present)
College football official (2004–2009)
Aerospace software engineer (1990s–present)

T. Adrian Hill[2] (born in Washington, D.C.)[3] is an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) since the 2010 NFL season, wearing uniform number 29.[4]

Early life

Hill was born in Washington, D.C. and raised mostly in upstate New York. He did not play football in high school because he was undersized. He would play the role of referee when his friends played pickup football.[1]

Hill earned degrees in electrical and software engineering and computer science from the University at Buffalo before moving to the Washington metropolitan area to work as a software engineer for Westinghouse Electric Corporation. To make extra money, he responded to a newspaper ad for football officials and spent the next fourteen years officiating high school football games as a side job.[1] He made $13 per game as a youth football referee.[5]

Officiating career

Hill's first college football officiating experience came in 2004 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.[1] He was an official in Conference USA, where he worked at the referee position. In 2007, Hill worked four games in the now-defunct NFL Europe league[6] as a line judge.[citation needed]

Hill was hired by the NFL in 2010 and made his first appearance during a September 12, 2010, game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys at FedExField as a line judge.[4][7] He was promoted to referee with the start of the 2019 NFL season following the retirements of Pete Morelli and Walt Coleman.[8] He worked as a line judge, side judge, and field judge before being promoted to referee, the seventh African-American to receive this honor.

Hill made unwanted headlines during a January 3, 2021, game when he called a roughing-the-passer penalty against Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker after he sacked Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings on a 4th and goal play. The sack, which would have given the Lions the ball, appeared to be routine as the Lions players started to celebrate before realizing the penalty flag was against them. Cousins told Walker "I don't necessarily agree with that call, but I'll take it"[This quote needs a citation] as players on both sides of the field looked befuddled about the call. The Vikings would score a touchdown two plays later and go on to win the game 37–35. Both social media and mainstream media outlets covered the call with headlines such as "Tracy Walker's phantom personal foul penalty causes uprising on social media" (Detroit Sports Nation),[citation needed] "NFL fans could not believe the horrendous, game-changing roughing call from Lions-Vikings" (USA Today),[citation needed] "Detroit Lions robbed by one of the worst calls ever in game vs. Minnesota Vikings" (Detroit Free Press),[citation needed] "Ridiculous roughing call on Kirk Cousins sack sets up Vikings' game-winning TD" (Yahoo Sports),[citation needed] "Lions flagged for roughing passer against Vikings on simple sack, befuddles fans" (Fox News)[citation needed] and "Worst Call in NFL History Aids Vikings in 37-35 Win against Lions" (Sports Illustrated).[citation needed] Though it seemed to be a blown call, Hill explained it as a clear-cut penalty in a post-game interview saying "By rule, one of the categories for roughing-the-passer is full body weight, where the tackler lands with his full body weight on the quarterback. That's the category this play fell into."[This quote needs a citation]

2023 crew


Engineering career

After earning his bachelor's degree from Buffalo, Hill earned a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University.[2]

In the 1990s, Hill worked as a NASA contractor at Goddard Space Flight Center for what became Raytheon Technologies. In 2000, he was hired as an aerospace software engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory Space Exploration Sector. He was the flight software lead on MESSENGER and had important roles on the New Horizons mission and the Parker Solar Probe.[1] He has served as the flight software lead for the Precision Tracking Space System, has led the development of fault protection systems for the Radiation Belt Storm Probes and has led flight software development for the Hubble Space Telescope. While working for Raytheon, he was a developer for the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite programs.[2]

In 2006, he was named Engineer of the Year by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.[10]

He was the lead author of Command and Data Handling Flight Software test framework: A Radiation Belt Storm Probes practice, a paper presented at the 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference.[11]

Personal life

As of June 2020, Hill resided in Bowie, Maryland with his wife, VaLerie.[1] He is the brother of Seattle radio host, Steve "The Thrill" Hill of the KISW 99.9 radio show The Mens Room.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Zrebiec, Jeff (June 11, 2020). "'We call him the rockstar': Meet Adrian Hill, head NFL ref and rocket scientist". The Athletic. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d "T. Adrian Hill". IEEE Explore. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  3. ^ "Flag day: NFL official Adrian Hill on making the call — and dealing with complaints". Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Adrian Hill NFL Official Statistics". Sports Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  5. ^ Ritter, Rick (March 3, 2021). "Referee And Rocket Scientist? Adrian Hill Talks About The Pressure On And Off The Field". WJZ-TV. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  6. ^ Driver, David (November 2008). "Your Other Life: Whistle Blower". Johns Hopkins Magazine. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  7. ^ "Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins - September 12th, 2010". Sports Reference. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  8. ^ Filipe, Cameron (February 28, 2019). "Adrian Hill and Scott Novak promoted to referee position". Football Zebras. Retrieved February 17, 2024.
  9. ^ Austro, Ben (June 27, 2023). "Officiating crews for the 2023 season". Football Zebras. Retrieved August 9, 2023.
  10. ^ "APL's T. Adrian Hill Named AIAA Engineer of the Year". Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. June 23, 2006. Retrieved December 27, 2023.
  11. ^ Hill, T. A.; Reid, W. M.; Wortman, K. A. (March 2013). "Command and Data Handling Flight Software test framework: A Radiation Belt Storm Probes practice". 2013 IEEE Aerospace Conference. pp. 1–9. doi:10.1109/AERO.2013.6496830. ISBN 978-1-4673-1813-6. Retrieved December 27, 2023.