10 Fast Facts on Sarah Thomas, the First Female Referee in the NFL

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas is a big deal. As the first full-time female referee in NFL history, she just set a major precedent in professional sports. And while she's suddenly all over the headlines, according to her resume she's always been big news.

Here are 10 facts about Sarah:

1. She has been in the industry for nearly two decades. Sarah began her referee career in 1996.

2. She was the first female official to work a major college bowl game. Sarah worked the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

3. She self-identifies as a tomboy.

4. She has also worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative. While still refereeing football.

5. She attended the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship. And earned Academic All-American honors.

6. She doesn’t feel that being a lady in the male-dominated sports industry inhibits her professional opportunities. In 2013, she said, “I don't feel that it's been harder for me because I'm a female. I think that we are just out here working as officials. … I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that's what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race."

7. She got into football in the early 1990s because of her brother. Sarah attended a meeting with him for “aspiring football game officials.”

8. When she started officiating at the high school level in 1999, she worked the game clock while pregnant. Sarah told the New York Times, “The spouses of my crew made me a maternity referee shirt. Standing out there, big and in stripes has been the only time I’ve ever felt out of place.”

9. She was the first athlete at her high school to earn a letter five times in a sport. Softball, baby.

10. She says she never “set out to become the first female official in the NFL.” Sarah has said, "When I got started in this 17 years ago, I had no idea that there weren't any females officiating.”

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