NFL Hires First Full-Time Female Official in 95-Year History

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Megan Schwaller, Staff Writer

Sarah Thomas. The name has been making its way into headlines as the 41-year-old has become the first full-time female official in the National Football League’s history.

What some are calling a “trailblazer”, the Mississippi native and mother of three has over two decades of experience under her belt. With an impressive resume to show, it’s clear that Thomas has earned her way into the NFL the same way any other official has: through grit and hard work.

Thomas’ career highlight reel begins all the way back to 1996, when she became the first woman to officiate in a Division I-A high school football game. In 2007 she continued her career working for Conference USA where she officiated the Senior Bowl, the Pizza Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, and the Medal of Honor Bowl. She has also worked the field at training camps and exhibition games inside the NFL’s development program.

Some have already started to question the decision, but Dean Blandino, NFL Vice President of officiating, makes it clear that gender hasn’t been, and never should be an interference in the hiring process. He ensures the league’s officiating team is filled with the finest, as Thomas is just 1 out of the 9 new game day officials hired for 2015 season.

“Our incoming officials have all demonstrated that they are among the best in college football….If you look at Sarah’s background and her journey to get here, this is not something that happened overnight. She’s been officiating 20 years and been on our radar screen for 8-9 years.”

She has received an outpour of positive feedback in response to her new hire, seldom receiving negativity from players, coaches, and officials. What should matter most in this situation, does; the skill, heart, and talent Thomas has showcased throughout her officiating career has awarded her with a killer accomplishment; something any official would be proud of.

Baltimore Raven coach, John Harbough says he looks forward to Thomas joining the League. “So, it’s about time. Get these guys straightened out a little bit, get some gals in there…She’s a good ref. So it was a good choice.”

Blandino hopes to see more women in black and white stripes on the field. With 10-15 officiating women on the NFL’s radar, Thomas may not be a lone star for long.

Thomas is humbled that her new hire has been an inspiration to people across the world, but you will find she feels most comfortable blending in, and plans to keep it that way.

“I’m a female, and I can’t change that. Just because I love the game of football and officiating, I do honor the fact that a lot of people consider me a trailblazer. But as far as being forced into a trailblazer role … I don’t feel that way,” Thomas said. “I’ve just been doing it truly because I love it. When you’re out there officiating, the guys don’t think of me as a female. I mean, they want me to be just like them — just be an official — and that’s what I’ve always set out to do.”