It is a testament to Sarah Thomas’ mettle that she didn’t dwell upon the pressures of her position as the first full-time game official in the NFL, at least until her first season on the job came to an end. People who were expecting Thomas’ presence to drastically affect the NFL spread were probably disappointed by the uneventful nature of her first season.
It was after the season ended that Thomas began to ponder on what her achievements have meant for the game. Thomas admitted that, while she didn’t feel the pressure during the actual season, upon reflecting on the season as a whole, she had to admit there was indeed some pressure to contend against.
None the less, even considering her place as the first women in the game in such a capacity, Thomas believes that her first year was very smooth. In fact, as her second year as a side judge approaches, Thomas appreciates the fact that there was very little fanfare about the fact that she is the only woman on the field.
Dean Blandino, Vice President of officiating, thinks that Thomas handled the whole situation with grace and poise. As a first year official and a woman, Thomas had a lot of challenges to contend with on her plate. That she had such a good season is commendable.
Thomas had the privilege of signaling the touchdown when Pittsburgh’s LeVeon Bell scored on a wildcat run as time expired, bringing his team victory at the end of Week 5 last season.
While seemingly initially stopped, Bell pushed forward, getting the ball across the goal line, and the replay review justified Thomas’ call. There is no telling the ruckus that would have been raised if the first female official in the NFL had blown such a call.
In this case, though, no one really took notice of her presence. And that is what Thomas wants. Officials want to go unseen, and they are at their best when they go unnoticed, achieving their objectives under the radar.
Thomas received a vote of confidence from the NFL commissioner during the first NFL Women’s Summit in San Francisco, Roger Goodell appreciating Thomas for her fantastic job.
The mother of three has spent a number of years working inside the NFL system. Along with officiating for Conference USA since 2007, Thomas has also worked at various training camps and exhibition games.
She spent some time in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program before she was hired full-time last year.
Sarah Thomas didn’t set out to make waves and change perceptions as the first female official on the field in the NFL. None the less, she is encouraged by the support she has received from women’s groups.
She also finds questions from other women looking to emulate her career choice endearing. Thomas has also repeatedly expressed her appreciation for all the support and respect the National Football League has shown her, giving her the room to explore her potential.
Blandino doesn’t think that Thomas will be the last of her kind and has admitted that there are many more women progressing through the NFL’s officiating development program.
He thinks the fans should expect to see more women peppering the game in the near future. He also thinks that the direction the NFL is taking is very positive and should be supported by the football fandom.