Experienced Female College Football Referee Gets NFL Gig

Mickey Hanley Contributor
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The NFL is preparing to announce a history-making hire.

Sarah Thomas will be the league’s first female official, reports the Baltimore Sun‘s Aaron Wilson.

Thomas, a Mississippi native and “self-described tomboy,” started her officiating career in 1996 when she attended a meeting of the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. She is no stranger to breaking ground in the world of officiating.

She was the first woman to officiate a college football game, the first woman to officiate a bowl game, and the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium.

She has refereed Conference USA college football games since 2007, and she has worked NFL preseason games as part of the league’s referee development program.

While she will be the NFL’s first permanent female referee, she will not be the first to have officiated a game. During 2012’s replacement referee debacle, Shannon Eastin was hired as a temporary official and refereed both preseason and regular season games.

ESPN’s Andrew Brandt noted that Thomas’s hire as a full-time NFL employee is somewhat unique. Most NFL officials maintain jobs outside of officiating.

Thomas is currently working as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

[h/t Deadspin]