Last updated on April 23, 2015
In the male-dominated world of football comes the NFL’s first female official.
Sarah Thomas, a 41-year-old mother of three, has been involved with football for more than 20 years. Thomas has also been officiating college games since 2007.
On the field she says you need to “be very driven and dedicated to your job, and training, just an immense amount of training,” Thomas said of what it takes to make it in the NFL. “Getting around a great group of officials, getting a mentor and I’ve been blessed to have that.”
Off the field the Mississippi native works as a pharmaceutical representative.
After being called up by the NFL to officiate, Thomas was told she’d have to blend in with other male referees when on the field. She said it was “a shock” to be told she had to wear a ponytail and go without makeup. That was when she fought back.
“When he did say, ‘No makeup,’ I was like, ‘You’re crossing the line there. I’ve got to wear makeup,’” Thomas said of a former boss at Conference USA.
“But, I get it,” Thomas said in an interview with Good Morning America. “Gerald Austin, the supervisor of Conference USA, just wanted me to blend in and, if you notice, there’s not many guys with facial hair.”
Thomas, who praises the support of her family, said that she has spent the past two NFL seasons officiating pre-season games and training camp practices. Her advice to others:
“I just say this, don’t go out to try to prove somebody wrong,” Thomas said. “Go and do things, whether you’re female or male, black or white, just do it because you believe in yourself and you know you’re there to do the job.”