Art McNally, left, seen here before a 1976 divisional playoff game, made a huge impact on the NFL, but he did it while trying to draw as little attention to himself as possible. His legacy, however, speaks volumes. Michael Zagaris/Getty Images
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He had a public phone number for his suburban Philadelphia home. Fans who were certain that McNally's officials had colluded against their team gave it a lot of ringing.

His son-in-law said that Art answered the phone every time. He would talk to anyone that called if they didn't curse or shout.

They would tell him how bad the officials were. The officials had been correct before. The rule would be explained to them by him. He said, "You might disagree with it, but that's the rule."

A time when the director of officiating could defend calls on an individual basis rather than on an NFL Network set is when McNally joined the league. The nation wasn't paying much attention to the league.

Some of the NFL's pioneers of that era, from commissioner Pete Rozelle to Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula to Dallas Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, are not as well known. The first official to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame will be McNally.

The Hall of Fame declined interview requests on McNally's behalf. Tom said it was not certain if his father would attend the ceremony. When he was informed of his election in February, McNally removed his hat and said, "That's a shock."

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Family members said that he thought he wouldn't get into the Hall of Fame. The only thing they ever write about us is when we make a mistake, according to McNally. Why don't you vote for someone who makes mistakes?

The best day for an official is when they don't get noticed. He said that their job is to perform in a way that no one will know you're there.

The league tries to keep out of the public eye the officials who work in it. They aren't available for interviews other than for brief postgame pool reports, and the NFL doesn't publish biographies or discuss their background.

While there are 16 referees in the Hall of Fame for both basketball and hockey and 10 for baseball, McNally was the first to be considered for pro football. Hugh "Shorty" Hayes was an on-field administrator with no experience when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Tom McNally said that it didn't bother Art. He wasn't upset with not being there. He didn't need the Hall of Fame to end his career because he was happy and content with his life. He is just who he is.

It will be amazing to have his bust in Canton for the rest of his life. His family is very proud of him. He was a pioneer.

McNally was driven by one simple principle: to ensure fairness. Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

Today's fan sees a lot of what they see on the field thanks to the influence of McNally. The competition committee was asked by owners to create more offense in the 70's. Relocating the hashmarks, eliminating the chuck rule that allowed defensive backs to hit receivers, introducing illegal contact and moving the goalposts to the back of the end zone were all done by McNally. He added a seventh official to the original six-person crews and then changed their mechanics in order to ward off requests for an eighth.

The regular-season system was introduced in 1986 after 10 years of experimentation. The league hoped that McNally's willingness to embrace technology would improve the credibility of the game.

A deep sense of fairness was the driving force behind McNally. His first game as an official was during World War II when fellow Marines began organizing teams. The players decided who would be the referee.

Tom said that they chose Art because they wanted to make sure everyone was treated fairly. He was a straight shooter and they would call the game the way it should be.

He became the referee for a football game in Philadelphia after the war. He was struck by the emotion he saw on the field after the game.

He told me that the kids that won were happy and the kids that lost were crying. He thought about how important the games were. He wanted to make sure that the game was fair for everyone. He saw that he was a referee. He was not a football person. He was a fair person.

He had a passion for the game of football. In February, Jim Tunney wrote that he trusted McNally to play poker over the phone. Paul Tagliabue said that McNally relied on his knowledge of the rulebook and the details of his daily film review to never say anything flip.

John Parry, who was promoted from side judge to referee in 2007, said that he didn't speak a lot. Art would shut down the meeting when there was an argument or a question about why we are doing something. He would get up and tell you the history of why it was important and why the rule was changed. The room was silent when he said something. People listen if Art speaks. They asked what wall they should run through.

There was a soft spot for him. McNally received a phone call from an angry Bears fan. The man began to calm down. He explained that he was a fan of his team.

The two people became friends. They wrote to each other. The man got tickets for the Super Bowl after the Bears won the game 46-10). Every Christmas, the barber would send candy to the family.

He stopped in the barbershop when he was in Chicago. He wasn't recognized by anyone. When nobody notices them, officials are at their best. He stuck out his hand and said hello. Art is a player from the National Football League. It is great to meet you.