NFL opens door to first female referee

The time when a woman takes the field as an NFL referee is drawing closer.

Ten years after beginning in the high school and college football officiating ranks, wife and mother of two Sarah Thomas was called up to the big league.

“I never set out to be the first or be a pioneer but I embrace it,” Thomas said. “I’m just me. I just try to get better every time. I’m given the opportunity and I don’t know anything else as far as identity, just to be myself.”

The league’s officiating development program coincides with Saints training camp.

One other female referee candidate is at Saints camp, but Thomas was the first.

Saints coach Sean Payton remembers seeing Thomas for the first time back in 2006: “She’s been a part of a crew that’s worked our training camp every year.  She’s really done a great job. You really don’t notice or pay attention to it.”

Thomas says the goal is to blend in, “It makes us feel like there’s a level of respect and hey, we’re out here trying to do a job and they recognize that.”

The league revealed that the first female NFL official could take the field this season, but more likely it’ll be next season.

Thomas lives in Brandon, Mississippi and is one of 21 candidates next in line when an NFL officiating job becomes available.

“No aspirations. Just truly trying to get by one day at a time,” says Thomas.