For Mick Bean, one simple "OK" led to years on the football field in a role he never envisioned — as a KSHSAA-certified official.

Some 30 years ago, Bean was working as an assistant wrestling coach at Halstead High School and the athletic director approached him because the school was having so much trouble finding officials for junior varsity and middle school games. Bean saw an opportunity to help his community and stepped up to the plate.

"At his behest, I registered as an official with nothing more in mind than just to help out for the local games just around Halstead," Bean said.

While Bean started working games in Halstead and at other local small schools, such as Inman, Burrton and Sedgwick, he eventually got a call from an official in Newton looking to put together a varsity officiating crew. His initial intent behind officiating quickly blossomed, and he eventually took over as crew chief with that group, until his son started playing varsity football at Halstead.

Serving as a varsity official, Bean has worked games from Dodge City to Wamego and officiated for competition at every classification from 6A down to eight-man football. He even got the chance to call a sectional game in Lindsborg a few years ago that featured the eventual state champion, Holcomb.

"I only registered to help them locally; the local school was needing a little help," Bean said. "I guess I didn't even think, I didn't even think that I might work varsity for any length of time, let alone how long would I do this."

Recently, Bean was recognized at this year's 3A state championship game with a plaque for his 30 years of service as a football official with KSHSAA.

Bean said being out on the field and hearing the national anthem play still captures the essence of what he loved about football when he played — and has kept him going. Now, he is out there to keep kids safe and make things fair to promote a positive game day experience for both teams. For the most part, spectators respect those efforts and the plaque was just the cherry on top of that recognition.

"There's just been a real outpouring from folks of all kinds, really, congratulating me," Bean said. "It's really been very humbling."

On top of officiating (also serving two years in wrestling), Bean has coached at the Halstead schools for 14 years. His first stint lasted seven years nearly 30 years ago, while he is currently in his seventh year of a second tenure and acting as head coach for Halstead Middle School wrestling.

While Bean earned a degree in education from Wichita State University and fully intended to get to work in the classroom, his career path took a different turn after graduation, which made him all the more willing to accept his roles with Halstead athletics and KSHSAA.

"Because I graduated midyear, I took a different job — and then I never taught," Bean said. "The opportunity came up for coaching and then subsequently officiating, so I still felt like I was serving my degree in education that way."

Looking back, Bean noted he would've liked the opportunity to work a state championship game, but he took pride in getting to call some playoff football contests in his 30-year tenure.

Toward the end of his officiating tenure, having gone back to calling JV and middle school games, Bean is more than willing to give advice to those interested in that path — one that he encourages given how it enhances learning opportunities for student-athletes across the state.

"Officials and extracurricular activities at the school, whatever it might be, I think people in general lose focus of all the other educational experiences that occur in non-traditional school settings," Bean said. "So, to encourage that — whether you're a sports official or you volunteer as a parent — get involved in some way if you can."