Cleat Geeks

NFL hires their 1st Woman Referee

Sarah Thomas

The National Football League has made it official; Sarah Thomas is the first woman to be a full-time referee. Sarah Thomas has been officiating football for 19 years. Not only is she a newly full time referee, she also works as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Sarah and her husband have three children – 14 and 11 year old sons and a 2-year old daughter. In the NFL, she will serve as a line judge and she is among nine officials who will be working at football’s top level for the first time next season.

“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,” Little Caesars Bowl - Marshall v OhioThomas told reporters in a conference call set up by the NFL. “My goal has always been to be the best line judge I can be any time I can get the opportunity,” she added. “I feel honored and blessed to be in the National Football League now.”

NFL officiating director, Dean Blandino said Sarah Thomas had been on the league’s radar for the past eight years. She was in the NFL’s officiating development program the past two years and she also worked minicamps, training camps, and even several preseason games.

In 1996, Sarah got her start on the high school level in Mississippi and in 2011 she was the first woman to referee in a Big Ten stadium during the Rice-Northwestern game. She was also the first woman to call a bowl game in 2009’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The other new officials are line judge Kevin Codey from the American Athletic Conference; head linesmen Hugo Cruz of Conference USA and Bart Longson of the Pac-12. There is also umpire Clay Martin of C-USA; side judges Aaron Santi of the Pac-12 and Jabir Walker of the SEC; and field judge Shawn Smith of the Big Ten.

The NFL has been in a lot of bad news lately and this is definitely a step in the right direction for a more positive look. I remember when I was approached to start writing for this website and I was told I would be the first woman writer; I didn’t say yes because of that reason, I said yes because I love writing about sports. I’m glad I took this opportunity because I couldn’t be happier. It’s nice to see other women succeed in what they love to do as well. Not because they are women, but because they are good at their jobs.


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