Omaha's 'hot ref' talks about going viral

Posted at 10:27 PM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-12 09:22:49-05

He is an Omaha lawyer by day and an NFL referee on the weekends. Now Clete Blakeman is also a web sensation. The Internet has dubbed him the "hot ref" after he officiated Super Bowl 50, seen on KMTV, earlier this month.

BACKGROUND - Omaha NFL referee gets high marks on Twitter

In a story you'll see only on we talked with him about the new found digital fame. It started earlier this year when Blakeman received national attention for something other than his good looks. 

The coin toss seen around the world

Rewind time back to the divisional playoffs, "tails is the call, tails is the call", a coin toss faux pas had Omaha resident and NFL ref Clete Blakeman blushing.

Fans couldn't stop talking about the toss. "Well that's the nature of the internet," Blakeman said. 

However, a flubbed coin toss couldn't sideline Blakeman from officiating the NFL's biggest game..

"The great thing is we have caller ID now, so the New York number came up and I was like this is either going to be good or it is going to be bad," Blakeman recalled.

Getting the call for the biggest game of the year

Blakeman got the nod to be the head ref at Super Bowl 50.

"Just walking the field pre-game, there are people on the sidelines, movie stars, A-list celebrities and just the magnitude of the game itself," Blakeman recalled. "We had 72 cameras on that game itself, CBS did."

All eyes were on him at the start of the Super Bowl. But this time it wasn't a coin toss blowing up the Internet. Something else had the Omaha lawyer trending on social media. 

The explosion of #HotRef on social media

"One of the guys literally was on his phone and he started going 'hey woah, woah wait a minute' and it kind of just started from there," Blakeman said.

Twitter was abuzz and Blakeman's biceps were trending under the hashtag "hot ref".

"Some are there to actually watch the commercials and some are there to watch the football" and others were there to check out the ref.

Viewers who had never watched a single down in their life were suddenly glued to their television.

What tweets did he remember? "There was one from a woman that said something like 'I want to go to bed but I don't want to miss the end of the game if the ref is going to get doused with Gatorade'."

WATCH - EXTENDED INTERVIEW: 'Hot ref' Clete Blakeman talks Super Bowl, Internet fame

A whirlwind of attention after the Super Bowl 

His newfound fame continued after the Super Bowl..

"We landed in Omaha and took right off to New York that same night"

The hot ref's presence was requested on a popular talk show.

Blakeman appeared on Kathy Lee and Hoda before being rushed over to the set of Access Hollywood. He flew home to hang out with KMTV's sister-station, Todd and Tyler, on the radio, before making a stop on The Morning Blend and KMTV Action 3 News.

"I knew him last week as Clete and now he is the hot ref," Morning Blend host Mike DiGiacomo said.

Blakeman says his number one goal was to work the Super Bowl and have a great game, becoming the hot ref was just an added bonus.

"Unexpectedly this becomes a craze and it's kind of wild," Blakeman said.

How does he stay in shape?

Blakeman says he works out, eats right and has a personal trainer.  Sorry ladies, he is happily married to his wife Katie. They have two young children. 

Like the KMTV Action 3 News Facebook page for more exclusive interviews and live video streams.

Look at those guns! EXCLUSIVE: Tonight at 10 KMTV Action 3 News' Emily Szink get answers to all your burning questions as she goes one-on-one with Omaha's #HotRef.

Posted by KMTV Action 3 News on Thursday, February 11, 2016