Sarah Thomas, a woman paving the way speaks to NMU community


MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Sarah Thomas has spent her career breaking down barriers. She is the first women to officiate a major college football game, the first women to officiate a college bowl game, the first female to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, the first female official hired by the NFL, and this past February she became the first women to officiate a Super Bowl.

Thomas’ road to her firsts were difficult. Being an avid athlete, Thomas played basketball her whole life. She went on to play collegiate basketball for the University of Mobile where she had over 750 points and was named an Academic All-American. After graduation Thomas was the only female in a basketball league at her church when she was kicked off the team due to her gender. Desperate to get back involved in an organized sport, that is when Thomas found herself at a meeting for football officials.

“I just have to confess, when I was an athlete I hated the officials and truth be told they probably hated me.” Thomas said. “I was just like this is where I want to be and my competitive juices started flowing because I had no idea what I had walked into as far as knowing the game of football.”

After ten years of junior college officiating, Thomas worked her last game of the tenth season just like any other game. Little did she know she caught the eye of some officiating scouts in the stands. Thomas began officiating college football games in Conference USA in 2006. In 2014 while officiating a C-USA bowl game, Thomas missed a call during the game which caused the NFL to pass on hiring Thomas. One year later, Thomas would then get the call she had been waiting for.

“On April the 8th in 2015 at 10:57 am CST Dean Blandino called and he said “Sarah, I would like to welcome you as one of nine new game officials in the NFL,” said Thomas

Thomas joined the NFL in 2015 as the first permanent female official. Throughout her time in the NFL thus far, Sarah has always worn her hair tucked into her hat. Being a creature of habit she says she never wanted to draw attention to herself so she just kept with her same routine. After receiving a special hat so that Thomas could wear her hair down during games, Thomas said she knew this past season was the perfect time to debut her new do.

“But 2020 with everything that had happened in inclusion and diversity and the end of racism, the timing was just right for it not to be about me but just to be myself,” Thomas said

Sarah Thomas was apart of a Platform Personalities lecture series hosted at NMU. To find out more about this student organization and upcoming speakers they will be having click here.

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