Editor’s note (5/5/21): A previous version of this story stated that Pham was born in Vietnam. The story has been corrected to show he was born in Laos.
Lo van Pham is set to make history as the first Asian American to officiate in the NFL.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the football league shared a list
of its newest game officials. One of its recruits is Pham, who will serve as a side judge.
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Pham was an official for the Big 12 Conference before being tapped by the NFL. Born in Laos, Pham and his family of five lived in a refugee camp in the Philippines before moving to Amarillo, Texas, in 1979 when he was 7 years old.
Pham has been passionate about the team sport ever since he was a child.
“I have that gene that wants to be outdoors and being around the competitiveness of sports and being around the guys,” Pham told the Amarillo Globe-News
in 2016. “Football taught me to do a task for the greater good of the overall team goal. It taught me a lot of discipline and doing your job when it came time to do it.”
Pham was a student at the University of Colorado and a defensive back for Palo Duro in the 1990s. He volunteered to officiate Pee Wee football after obtaining his bachelor’s degree, then became a back judge after returning to Amarillo in 2000.
He got his first break in 2006 when he was chosen to work for the Lone Star Conference. The following year, Pham started rising through the ranks as a Division 1 on-field official for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). In 2015, he officiated his first Big 12 Conference game.