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Steve Trussler Honored for 50 Years of Service by TSSAA

Story by John Brice – TSSAA

Steve Trussler {photo provided by TSSAA]

Stack all the days in a decade; there’s roughly 3,650 turns of the calendar. Steve Trussler can fill them all with the nights logged working TSSAA events as an official, umpire or otherwise in more than 50 years’ service to high school athletics in Tennessee.

A native of the Gainesville and Jacksonville areas of Florida, still with the Florida Gators’ fight song as a ringtone to this day, Trussler’s time in the Volunteer State extends back to his college days of attending and graduating from David Lipscomb University in 1968.

He never left Tennessee and once he got started officiating contests, Trussler likewise never left that role.

“I kept a record, still got it, and I’ve called right at 4,000 dates in the 50 years,” Trussler said. “I did basketball, baseball, football, and softball since its inception in the mid-80s. I’ve written down every assignment, worn out three or four cars, at least. I just stayed active and always had a smile on my face. I was never on time; I was always early. And I always acted like I wanted to be there, because I did, and I always wanted to be professional and have fun. And with the kids and the coaches and fellow officials I’ve met over the 50 years, I wouldn’t take anything for it. Hundreds of friends, close friends that I’ve made. That’s really what keeps you going. And you’ve gotta love kids or you can’t do it the right way.”

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Trussler explained that an inability to hit collegiate pitching on the diamond mandated his adaptation of learning sports from the viewpoint of those behind the scenes. He umpired preseason baseball scrimmages; served in various roles of student-trainer and manager and assisted Lipscomb athletics in any possible manner.

“When I graduated, I joined the local officials under A.F. Bridges. and I just fell in love with it,” Trussler said. “I learned from the best. Earl Crowell, Gabby Street, Bill Pack Sr. I learned the game from then. They taught me that I better learn the rules and I better know how to enforce them.

Trussler logged not just 50 years of officiating but also a five-decade tenure as an employee of the State of Tennessee. He worked 40 years in child protective services and public welfare before he added a decade as a public educator and administrator in both Grundy and Marion counties. Trussler was a recipient of the TSSAA Athletic Director of the Year award in 2018.

In addition to his longevity as a football official, Tressler has worked 15 TSSAA Spring Fling championships, can recall his early basketball work in six-on-six girls’ hoops and helped officiate a BlueCross Bowl football championship in Cookeville. He can recall an early football assignment that netted a $5 payday.

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He and wife, Wilma, have been together since their days at Lipscomb and raised two sons, former NCAA collegiate athletes, Jay and Jon.

“I’m blessed,” Trussler said. “I still go to basketball and baseball and softball meetings, even though I’m not on the field. It’s just something that gets in your blood and you love it so much, it just stays with you. And that’s not happening anymore. A lot of younger guys can’t take the hammering from coaches and fans or the 200-mile roundtrips at night in fog and sleet and they get out of it. But it’s just a great profession; I’d recommend it to anybody. When I met Wilma at Lipscomb, I told her, ‘I love sports and I love kids, and this is what I’m going to do.’ And she never complained. We’ve stayed married 50 years with me gone all those nights.”

Now 73, Trussler isn’t planning an end anytime soon to his love affair with high school athletics.

“There have been a lot of changes,” Trussler said. “Three or four uniform changes, scores of rules changes. It keeps evolving and keeps evolving toward increased safety for the players.

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“But I hope I can stand on that sideline and run that clock for Mr. (Ken) Pack for another 10 or 15 years.”

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