SANTA MARIA, Calif - It's already one of the most memorable endings in NFL history. The official right in the middle of it was Lance Easley of Santa Maria, wearing number 26.
If you Google "Worst Call Ever" your are going to find thousands of hits all talking about a call made by Easley in a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Several memes and cartoons surfacing in Facebook feeds are equating the replacement referees to Footlocker employees.
It is a lot of scrutiny for one person. One family unlucky enough to have Easley's old phone number has reported receiving hundreds of threats. So how is Easley holding up after all the backlash? Mike Ostini, a friend of Easley, said "It's a tough position to be in, to be a part of, but I know he's doing the best he can do".
Ostini is a close friend and officiating colleague of Easley. Speaking on Easley's work ethic as a football official, Ostini says "He takes it so seriously doing rules study for college, rules study for high school, film study, he does it so very hard."
A year ago Easley was far from the NFL. He was on the Central Coast working high school and junior college football games. But with the current lockout of NFL officials, he's been called on to work as a replacement.
Bobby Kennedy, another friend of Easley, says "We can all be scrutinized all the time, but the speed of the game is definitely faster than we're accustomed to in our area."
With millions watching, Easley made the call that has thrust him into a media firestorm around the nation. Kennedy says "simultaneous possession goes to the offense, that's what he saw and that's what he ruled. We officiate at the speed of the naked eye and not instant replay."
Ostini spoke with Easley Tuesday and says despite everything, he's in good spirits and is already looking ahead.
"He's ready to go next Sunday, they're replacement officials, they're doing their job and they're getting paid to do it. You know, if they weren't doing it, there wouldn't be any games."
Known as the "Dean of NFL Referees", Jim Tunney retired after 31 years. If anyone knows how hard it is to make those calls, its Tunney. "We demand the best players and the best coaches, we must demand the best officials. Until the best officials get on the field, this will happen over and over. Replacement officials can not come in and understand all the rules, let alone the spirit of the rules, " said Tunney in an interview with Central Coast News.