Making it Official

Eric Aimes Sr. leads a double life, but that is not a bad thing. For most of the week, Mr. Aimes Sr. works for Capital One® as a Branch Manager II, running the Frisco branch at Preston Road and Main Street, which he has done since 2014. 

However, for the past 20 years, he has also been a football official, calling everything from pee wee and middle school football to high school and college games. Mr. Aimes Sr. also officiates Dallas Cowboys practices at The Star and works gamedays at AT&T Stadium as part of the Dallas Cowboys’ chain crew, an integral part of every game. This winter, he will also call games for the Texas Revolution, the indoor football team which recently relocated from Allen and will play at Dr Pepper Arena. 

As a father of three, Mr. Aimes Sr. admits to working five or six games a week last season. That schedule would include several high school games at the varsity and sub-varsity levels during the week, a college game on Saturday and a Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday. After working a high school game on Friday night, he would get up early Saturday and drive to his college game, after which he would return to the metroplex, often with another quick turnaround, this time to work the chain crew for the Dallas Cowboys. The man has a passion for football!

This season, his schedule during the week has slowed down, going from 15 total high school games last season to just five this entire season, which means his children get to see Dad more in the fall, something which has not always been the case. 

Mr. Aimes Sr.’s work as an official is interesting enough, but the backstory on how he started wearing the stripes is equally intriguing. “I was early in my banking career, closing an estate sale and got the state attorneys involved,” he shares. “I had some tickets to the Motor Speedway to sweeten the deal. The customers I was trying to close the estate for were very impressed that I was this 22-year-old kid with these tickets.”

He remembers talking football with those clients, which led to him meeting their estate planner, then an official in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). And once this veteran official asked him a simple question, the die was cast. “He asked me if I had ever thought about officiating football,” Mr. Aimes Sr. shares. “We started talking about it and that is how I got introduced to officiating.”

Unlike baseball, which has schools for aspiring umpires, football has no formal teaching structure for novice officials. Older officials mentor young upstarts, teaching them the mechanics of officiating and helping prepare them for the multitude of situations they will face.

But there is no substitute for experience, and Mr. Aimes Sr. remembers starting at the bottom, working pee wee and middle school games. Now, he is a veteran official who mentors his younger counterparts aspiring to reach similar heights, his own way of paying forward the sage advice he received coming up as a young official.

“Essentially, we stick them on the field starting out with sub-varsity games and seventh and eighth grade games to really teach them mechanics. We have senior officials on the field with them,” Mr. Aimes Sr. shares. “We also encourage them to sign up for pee wee football on the weekends because that is really when you get the opportunity to work on your craft and make mistakes.”

Learning the proper mechanics, familiarizing himself with rules, how to interpret and enforce them and how to officiate with poise in front of hostile fans who will never agree with every call are among the lessons Mr. Aimes Sr. learned early on. However, the biggest lesson he might have gleaned from his mentors, a mantra he instills in younger officials, is to always give your best because one never knows who will be watching and when their next opportunity is right around the corner. “You never know if a guy from a Power 5 conference who is watching his kid play may also see you do a good job. That could be your next opportunity,” he says. “Our mantra, as officials, is to always give your best.”

Born in Greenville, Texas, Mr. Aimes Sr. remembers moving to Garland in 1987. Like many kids from North Texas, he became a Dallas Cowboys fan almost immediately. In the early 1990s, he played football at Garland Lakeview Centennial High School, an era he recalls fondly as one when the Pirates were “winning games.” 

He continued his playing career at Northwood University in Cedar Hill, but once his career with the Timberwolves concluded, he thought his days being involved with football were over. Of course, they were not. Officiating has allowed him to remain close to a game he loves and one which has given him so much — a sport he continues to give back to. “It is twofold. You are right in the midst, officiating competition between two teams, so you get to make sure the game is being played the way it is supposed to be played,” he says.

Mr. Aimes Sr., who just finished his fourth year calling college games for the Lone Star Conference as an umpire, also likes that officiating is a results-based business, one where every official is rated on every play of the game, which adds a pressure element to calling games. “Once you get to the collegiate level, every play we officiate is graded,” he says. “From a competitive standpoint, you have to be on top of your game, you have to be in great shape, you have to know rules, you have to know rules enforcement and you have to know your mechanics. I am competing with myself, but I am also competing with the other umpires who have not had an opportunity to get to the college level, who are waiting for me to make some mistakes so that they can take my place. I got to feel that same level of competition when I was playing. I know I have to be on my ‘a game’ because there are guys who want my position.”

Besides his current role with Capital One, Mr. Aimes Sr. has other Frisco ties which date further back. Between 2009 and 2016, he served on the board for the Museum of the American Railroad, which relocated to Frisco from Dallas Fair Park several years ago. He has also been calling local high school games, including a state championship semifinal last December at The Ford Center at The Star, for several years. 

Mr. Aimes Sr. considers it an honor to officiate Dallas Cowboys practices and to work gamedays on the chain crew. Like many officials, the ultimate would be to one day become a National Football League (NFL) official. “That would be huge. That would be a dream come true,” he says. “Growing up in the metroplex and wanting to play for the Dallas Cowboys is every kid’s dream, but the reality comes in. I was not a superior athlete. I was a good athlete, but not one good enough to go play at that level. So, to be able to make it to the NFL as an official would be the ultimate achievement of hard work and perseverance. Getting to the NFL is a goal, but it is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to get there, have a 20-year career and be able to sustain it!”