Carl Madsen, who officiated NFL games during nearly two decades as a referee, died in a Minneapolis hospital on Saturday night after his car left Interstate 29 and crashed into a ditch during a storm. He was 45.
He had been released from the hospital earlier in the day.
Madsen had worked as a referee since 1996, a time when many officials were growing increasingly concerned about health and safety issues related to long hours spent overseeing practices, games and even the building of synthetic turf fields.
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“Carl was a part of our family for 17 years,” NFL officiating chief Al Riveron said in a statement. “He became a really great friend to all of us as a referee. He had a tremendous sense of humor and a great work ethic. He just loved football and his love will continue to be felt through his family and fans around the league.”
Madsen refereed in seven Super Bowls and was expected to work the Feb. 3 showdown between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis. Madsen began his officiating career with the Arena Football League, where he handled games in eight different cities before moving to the NFL, where he called games for the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.
He also had been a partner in the National Finals Rodeo, an invitation-only event featuring the best horse and calf roping performances in the world. His older brother, Keith, has also been an official.
“This is a terrible shock for us,” the Nashville Predators’ general manager, David Poile, said in a statement. “He was a tremendous young man with a big heart and a unique sense of humor who always had a positive outlook on life. He made a difference in the lives of so many people. He was a great referee and a true friend. He was a great part of the Predators and our family and was a fantastic person.”
The Super Bowl 50 champion Broncos released a statement through the team’s spokesman, Patrick Smyth, that also paid tribute to Madsen.
“On behalf of the entire Broncos family, we extend our deepest condolences to the Madsen family and Carl’s friends and colleagues in the NFL,” the statement read. “Carl was a tremendous official who had a positive impact on so many people across the country during his officiating career. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”