Longtime NFL Referee Red Cashion, Famous For Emphatic ‘First Down!’ Call, Dies At 87

George RoseGetty Images

Longtime NFL referee Red Cashion, who was famous for his emphatic “First Down!” call and was considered one of the league’s best, has died at the age of 87.

News of his passing was reported on Sunday by The Eagle and confirmed by Cashion’s family. Cashion officiated in the NFL for more than 20 seasons, starting in 1972 and retiring after the 1996 season. He was also tapped to officiate in Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX.

Cashion earned a number of fans for his colorful nature on the field and his drawn out “First Dooowwwnnn” call after penalties. As NFL.com noted, Cashion said in a 1996 interview that he decided to bring his passion for the game into his work as an official.

“Somehow I think I wanted to say, ‘Hey, I’m enthusiastic about this game and I want everybody else to be that way, too,’ ” Cashion told the Chicago Tribune, via NFL.com.

Before being hired by the NFL, Cashion was an official in the Southland Conference in the 1960s. Cashion said he was fired after one year in college football, and later wrote in his autobiography that his firing helped him gain a new perspective on his job.

“I made a vow to live and work enthusiastically,” he said. “As I met people and interacted with people I already knew, I was stunned by how contagious enthusiasm is in day-to-day life.”

Cashion was quite an athlete himself, attending Texas A&M on a baseball scholarship, and being inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

While he grew a following among NFL fans through his more than 20 seasons working in the league, Red Cashion also gained a new base of fans through his work as the voice of the virtual referee in the Madden NFL video game series.

As The Eagle noted, the referee whose real name was Mason L. Cashion, was also known outside the NFL as a successful businessman in College Station, Texas. His daughter, Joyce Cashion Cain, told The Eagle that her father also had a passion for his work in insurance and poured the same enthusiasm into his business life as he did on the field in the NFL.

“He was very creative, and always looking for a way to make the insurance business better, and became extremely successful at that,” she said. “He enjoyed figuring those puzzles out, and was never particularly happy with the status quo.”

Red Cashion was pre-deceased by Lou Burgess Cashion, his wife of 47 years, who passed away in 1999. A funeral service will be held on February 18, The Eagle reported.