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Local NFL replacement ref says he’d suit up again ‘in a heartbeat’

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DENVER -- Donovan Briggans just wanted to be a Division I college basketball official, but he says God keeps leading him in a different direction.

"I began working women's basketball games and just wanted to also do some men's games, but every time I get close to getting into the men's side of things, somehow football is where I am being led," Briggans said. "My name got to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference for football, and through that connection my name made it to NFL scouts.

"When the action by the NFL refs was threatened last spring, I got a call, went to a couple of camps, and when the preseason got close I was given a six person crew."

The rest is history.

Briggans became a member of one of the most scrutinized cross-sections of professional officials in the history of sports: the NFL's replacement referees. His short-lived career in the big leagues came to an end two weeks ago when the NFL referee lockout ended.

When the NFL came calling, Briggans said he didn't think twice.

"I wasn't nervous or anything," Briggans said. "Once I got used to the speed of the game and the size of the players, I said to myself, 'We can do this. We'll be alright.'"

The first game found the local ref, who got into the game by doing peewee football, with a crew of officials who had big-time college backgrounds -- the Pac-10, the ACC and the Big Ten. He was also paired with the first woman to ref an NFL game.

"Once the kick off happened, we began to click and I knew we could handle the game, which is all we are supposed to do," Briggans said.

With a four-game NFL career, Briggans missed out of his RMAC schedule. But basketball is around the corner.

"This is just a story about cashing in on a dream-come-true kind of opportunity and I am glad I was ready when the call came," Briggans said.

For anyone who has ever put on stripes this is one of those stories that could provide hope about making it to the big time. And when we asked Briggans if he would do it again, the longtime referee said, you bet.

"If they call tomorrow, I'll be there next week," he said.