Sarah Thomas had a typical childhood growing up in Mississippi. She played softball in high school and attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship. She works as a pharmaceutical representative and is married with three children. She sounds normal but she is definitely not – she is now the first permanent female game official in the NFL.
Thomas has been officiating football on and off for 19 years now. Despite trying to focus on her career and family, she was approached in 2006 by Gerald Austin, a coordinator of football officials for Conference USA. He invited her to attend the officials’ camp and was impressed by what he saw. Thomas was officially hired by Conference USA in 2007 and, since then, she has continued to impress and move up the ranks. In 2009, she became the first woman to officiate a bowl game. In 2011, she became the first female referee to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. Now, she is an official NFL referee.
Thomas’ humble attitude is one reason she is well liked. “I did not set out to become an NFL official, but the further along I went in the progression, in Conference USA, part of me thought it might be a reality,” Thomas told reporters on Wednesday through a conference call set up by the NFL. She also added, “my goal has always been to be the best line judge I can be any time I can get the opportunity. I feel honored and blessed to be in the National Football League now.”
Her humble attitude isn’t the only reason why she is popular. Ravens coach John Harbaugh praised her performance in a Baltimore preseason game last year. He told reporters on Wednesday that, “she might be one of the better ones we’ve had, she’s a good ref, so it was a good choice.”
Thomas isn’t concerned about gender barriers because she has made it this far. She is confident for the future, saying, “as far as players and coaches, I’ve been around a good little while, and I think they know who I am and just want to make sure I can do my job.”
Overall, Sarah Thomas is a great ref with a lot to offer. Her exemplary refereeing will hopefully pioneer the way for more woman to follow her lead.