MACON, Ga. – During an academic year in which football has created a buzz on Mercer University's campus, its intramural flag football program recently received national recognition, as one of its officials was selected as one of 16 National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) All-Americans.
Senior Rob Kelly, an economics major from Brookhaven, was one of 55 officials chosen from across the country to officiate the NIRSA National Flag Football Championship in Pensacola, Fla., Jan. 3-5.
“In order to officiate the tournament, officials must receive a 'bid' by being named as one of the top officials at a NIRSA regional tournament,” said Todd Thomas, assistant director of recreational sports and wellness at Mercer. “Rob was one of the top officials at the regionals hosted by the University of Maryland and by the University of Southern Mississippi.”
Then, at the end of the national championship, Kelly was one of 16 chosen as All-American Officials, the highest honor an undergraduate intramural official can receive. Kelly represented Mercer among large, public universities such as Clemson, Ohio State, North Carolina State and Maryland.
“It is rare for a private school of Mercer's size to place an official into the tournament. This was the first time in school history that Mercer had placed an official into the tournament,” said Thomas.
“Having an official from Mercer selected as an All-American highlights Mercer's intramural program to both students and intramural staff members across the country. It allows Mercer to show that not only is participation in our programs at a high level, but that the program also strongly believes in developing its student staff members.”
Kelly has worked with the University's intramural program since he was a freshman and currently serves as student director of staff. He has been officiating flag football for three years, and recently began officiating high school football through the Middle Georgia Football Officials Association. He also officiates high school soccer with the Heart of Georgia Soccer Officials Association and high school basketball with the Middle Georgia Basketball Officials Association.
“I am extremely proud to represent Mercer on a state, regional and national stage, and hope that Mercer officials will continue to showcase their abilities in similar events across the country,” said Kelly. “Being recognized as an All-American reflects the outstanding job that Todd Thomas and Mercer Intramurals have done to train and develop me and others as officials and as leaders.”
“This is quite an honor for Rob,” said Dr. Doug Pearson, vice president and dean of students at Mercer. “This reflects positively on both him and the training and guidance that he has received from the Department of Recreational Sports and Intramurals.”
The University hosts 13 intramural sports activities throughout the school year, and more than 1,200 students participate annually. Each year, the program employs approximately 100 student workers as officials.
In 2012, Mercer's intramural program was highlighted by the Princeton Review's annual best colleges guide, as the University was ranked No. 8 in the category “Everyone Plays Intramural Sports.” The University was ranked No. 13 in that same category in 2011. Currently, four of the program's officials call high school basketball, and this spring, Thomas anticipates that five will call high school soccer in Middle Georgia.
“Not only are our student officials excelling on campus, they're also getting the officiating program pretty well known around the state,” said Thomas.
Kelly hopes to become a graduate assistant in the field of intramural sports after graduation and continue to work with undergraduate referees and assist in the operation of a successful intramural sports program.