The call to the NFL was memorable, so was talent.
“I remember thinking I was really ready, because I had done so many college games, some at the highest level,” recalled Mello. “But there is nothing like the NFL. Not even the best two teams in college football. The speed at the NFL level is amazing. You can’t prepare for it in college. You have to experience at the NFL level.”
Getting a Super Bowl berth as a referee is another experience altogether. Every game they are graded. The ones with the best grades get to do playoff games. The ones who grade out near the top get The Big One, a k a The Super Bowl.
The closest he had come previously was in 2010, when he worked AFC Championship game in Indianapolis when the Colts hosted the Jets. He was named an alternate for the Super Bowl a few weeks later when New Orleans beat Indianapolis.
He other championship game he worked was two years earlier, when the New York Giants played in Green Bay. The Giants won in overtime, and two weeks later stunned the undefeated Patriots in Glendale, Az.
“It was 31 (degrees) below zero for that NFC Championship game,” recalled Mello. “It was the coldest game I’ve ever done. It was brutal out there.”
The NFL experience is one thing. The commitment is another. Which is what made seven weeks ago so special.
“The commitment during an NFL season is incredible,” said Mello.
“I am very thankful because ‘The Lottery’ has been great. It’s a lot of red-eye flights home to get to work on Monday. I’ve had to use a lot of vacation and personal days to be able to do this.”
Mello distinctly remembers the good news he received about the Super Bowl on Feb. 2. He got the call on January 14.