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Lower Makefield’s McNally a Pro Football Hall of Famer

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Lower Makefield Township resident and former National Football League referee and executive Art McNally has reached the pinnacle of his professional life, and received an honor only a select few ever attain.

The 97-year-old McNally, a Bucks County resident since 1968, recently became the first official to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of eight in the 2022 HOF class, a list that also includes former Eagles, St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams and Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil, and former players Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, Leroy Butler, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Bryant Young.

McNally’s son-in-law Brian O’Hara of Burlington, N.J., said the family is still hoping McNally can attend the Aug. 6 induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, but it’s doubtful because of McNally’s health issues that also no longer allow him to do interviews.

“If he can make it, he will be introduced by his grandson and my son, Connor,” said O’Hara, the husband of McNally’s oldest daughter Rita, who died in 2017.

O’Hara said McNally’s surviving three children and everyone else in the family is immensely proud of their patriarch and his Hall of Fame honor.

“I never thought they would put an official in,” O’Hara said.

McNally, a World War II veteran who lives in Lower Makefield with his second wife Sharon (his first wife Rita died in 1980) was an NFL field judge and referee from 1959 to 1967 while also working as a teacher and living in Northeast Philadelphia.

He and his family moved to Bucks County in 1968 after McNally accepted the full-time executive position of NFL Supervisor of Officials. While serving in that role, he is credited with bringing about the first formal training and evaluation program for NFL officials and also introducing the replay system to the league in 1986.

McNally retired in 1991 but came back in 1995 to serve as Assistant Supervisor of Officials, a position he held until 2007.

In 2002, then NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue created the Art McNally Award to honor league game officials who exhibit “exemplary professionalism, leadership and commitment to sportsmanship” on and off the field.

“He was also key in helping to implement and enforce, at the direction of the NFL Competition Committee, rules changes that favored offenses and increasing scoring,” said O’Hara, who feels that his father-in-law is probably being inducted more for his work as an executive than a game official, though O’Hara added he was great at both.

“He didn’t want the limelight,” O’Hara noted. “He always said that if no one notices the officials, then they’re doing a good job and that’s best. He always had a passion for football, but his religion and the fact he’s a Marine are very high on his list too. He’s a devout Catholic and still attends church.”

In addition to the four children, all with his first wife Rita, McNally also has eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

“He was always great at following the rules,” O’Hara said. “When he drove he would get it to 55, but no faster, and I think following the rules like that was part of what made him such a great official.”


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