Moving Picture: Roselle man works NFL 'chain gang'
Harold Schwind of Roselle has been around football most of his life.
He began his sideline tenure in 1961, refereeing high school games for 31 years. Since then he has worked the chains on the sidelines of Chicago Bears home games as part of the "chain gang," moving the down markers along the sidelines. In 2008, he was inducted into the Athletic Officials Association's Hall of Fame.
With all that experience under his belt, Schwind is now the leader of the chain crew of eight people working the Bears games. With a crew to be responsible for, Schwind gets to the games early to make sure people are on time and ready to go.
"We usually meet with the head linesman an hour and 15 minutes before the game. Each (crew member) has their own little thing they want to talk about or they are concerned with from the game before," Schwind says.
Out of a crew of 11, with three alternates, nine of them are former or current football officials.
"It's a very intelligent crew as far as knowing what they are doing out there," he says.
Schwind says his crew needs to stay focused on the task at hand and not get distracted during the game. He's in constant contact with the head linesman to make sure his crew keeps up with the action on the field.
"You have to concentrate. We've got a job to do, we've got to move those chains at the right time," he says.
And he's had to stay grounded, too, with so much contact with well-known football players all around him.
"I've seen lots of very great games and great players over the years. Walter Payton was the friendliest," Schwind says. "He was a kid playing a man's game and he was good at it. He pinched me many times on the butt. He'd do it to referees, he'd do it to everybody. He was just a fun person."
One of the dangers of the job is getting hit by players as they are coming out of bounds.
"Two or three times a game I'm dodging players and getting out of the way so that I don't get hit," he says. "I've only been knocked down one time and that was by (Devin) Hester. He got me good. He sent me flying, legs up in the air and everything."
But he survived the hit and keeps coming back to the game he loves.
"You feel like you're doing something and you're part of something big," he says.