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Driven to Serve: Steve Newton Alabama Sports Officials Foundation Hall of Fame

For years, we’ve known how special it’s been to have Steve Newton, PE, on the TTL team. Now, the Alabama athletic community is acknowledging the same.


In recognition for his contributions during his 46 years of service as a high school football referee, Steve has been chosen as one of the 10 inductees into the Alabama Sports Officials Foundation Hall of Fame for 2024.


Steve’s start in football officiating wasn’t exactly voluntary. While attending graduate school at Auburn University, a civil engineering professor asked him if he liked football. His seemingly innocent answer of “yes” led to an unexpected directive: Newton was informed that he would be officiating high school football games.

“And that,” he said, “is where it all began.”


Steve’s influence has since extended beyond the field itself. As a state camp instructor with the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and a key – i.e., the only – figure in developing the AHSAA’s first officiating mechanics manual, he played a crucial role in enhancing the quality and consistency of officiating across the state. Most visibly, his work helped transition high school officiating from a five-person to a six-person crew, a move that, at the time, aligned high school mechanics with college-level standards, despite the significant challenges involved.


Through the years, Steve worked numerous state championship games, as well as several games televised on ESPN, and was even pulled into the collegiate and NFL ranks. His dedication was noticed even then, earning in 1996 the Birmingham Football Officials Association’s “Dick Burleson Outstanding Member Award,” which recognizes an official who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, good moral and ethical character, and a high level of service.


Yet, despite these accolades, Newton’s most memorable moments often revolved around the joy and camaraderie of the sport, such as officiating a back-and-forth game featuring future quarterback commitments to the University of Alabama, a televised game that mentioned his name more than the Crimson Tide’s recently retired Nick Saban.


At its core, Steve’s story is about the value of selfless dedication. Through decades of often thankless work on the field, he has not only upheld the integrity of the game but also enriched the lives of countless young athletes with a personal understanding of how much football can mean to local communities.


After officiating his only regular season NFL game at the start of the 2001 season, Steve recalled how all college and pro games were canceled in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. But under Friday night lights, friends, families, and neighbors still came together.



“We had high school football,” Steve said, “and high school football provided a sense of normalcy and unity during a difficult time, offering a source of solace and support for a devastated nation.”

Despite his initial reluctance, Steve quickly embraced a lifelong dedication to the game. And it didn’t take long to realize that, for many of these athletes, football was a sanctuary, especially for those who lacked stable family environments.


Steve saw that the presence of his crews on the field could offer guidance and mentorship, and this understanding that made him driven to serve his community by helping to positively shape the lives of growing men.


“One of the things I always encouraged my crews to do,” he said, “is to be a good example to young players.”



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