Steve Strimling will be the referee for the Cotton Bowl on Friday when Cincinnati takes on Alabama for a spot in the National Championship Game. An official in the Pac-12 since 2011, Strimling officiated the Pac-12 Championship Game earlier this month and has worked many bowl games over the years.

Seeing him in the white hat in Dallas on ESPN will be a source of pride for a lot of people.

No doubt, Strimling being publicly out as a gay man makes him a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community. It’s not something he trumpets, and it’s also not something he hides. Strimling is who he is, with a partner of many years. He shared his journey with Outsports several years ago and has spoken at Outsports Pride.

For gay men who may not otherwise see the possibility of officiating college football, Strimling is an inspiration.

His placement in the National Semifinal Game is also a source of pride for the many people in officiating he has touched over the course of his career.

Officiating since he was a teen in the late Seventies, Strimling has made it a focal point of his career to help other officials grow. Whether it’s leading weekly rules and film review or attending the many officiating clinics he’s a part of, Strimling’s good nature and officiating brilliance combine to make him a beloved member of the larger officiating community.

“During my time within the officiating community I’ve come across so many great people with so many great qualities: smart, sensible, honest, self aware, humble, funny, empathetic people,” said Dean Blandino, the Fox Sports football rules analyst and national replay coordinator for the NCAA. “But rarely have I met anyone that embodies all of those. Steve Strimling is the exception. He’ll probably roll his eyes when he reads this but he is a superstar in every sense of the word.”

Blandino has worked hand-in-hand with Strimling on various projects, including the most recent incarnation of the XFL.

In fact, Strimling’s choice to share his story publicly about being a gay man in officiating stemmed from wanting to help other people.

“The articles I read about other gay people in sports each say how much they helped others,” Strimling said at the time. “That’s why I want to do this. I want to help.”

We’re wishing Strimling and his entire crew a great game in the Cotton Bowl.