Hanging up the Whistle: TSSAA official Wink Willoughby’s final game

Hanging up the whistle: TSSAA offical's final game

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Tennessee high school football official is hanging up his whistle after a long and successful career.

Cordova resident W.K. “Wink” Willoughby has seen a lot of football fields in his life.

But after 60 years of service, the 86-year-old, is leaving his duties as a Tennessee High School Football official.

"It'll be a void. The void though is the opportunity for me to walk away without being ill, and also still have the many friends that I've been able to meet and grow with in many games we've had. That is a blessing within itself,” said Willoughby.

Willoughby almost missed that 60-year mark, though.

Just a few years ago he suffered a serious accident in his machine shop that limited his ability to walk for more than a year.

"I was told by the physician that put this leg back together that you do not want to walk on that leg, or it will collapse like an accordion,” said Willoughby.

He did walk on that leg again, and with the help of his supervisors, he found a new role as a game clock operator in the press box, instead of refereeing on the field.

One of those supervisors is Don Williams, who assigns officials to their games.

Williams says he'll miss Willoughby tremendously.

“I was hoping to get him at least through the end of the season, and try to squeeze him a little bit, but he has good reasons for not, and I get that,” said Wiliams. "Personally we’ll still be friends, and I’ll still talk to him, I just will have to dig a little deeper, and take some of the younger people who aren’t quite as ready, and won’t do quite as good of a job as Wink, and bring them on.”

Willoughby says officiating multiple state championships is his biggest accomplishment.

When he retires he says he’ll travel with his wife, and visit his many kids, grand-kids and great grand kids, knowing he accomplished his goal of helping young people in the sport he loves.

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