Sarah Thomas makes history in the NFL

From Issue 6

Sarah Thomas officiates one of her many NFL football games. Photo courtesy of NFL (Photo courtesy of the NFL)

On the seventh of February, Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. The pinstriped trailblazer from Pascagoula became a permanent NFL official in 2015, working her way to the pinnacle of her profession for the 55th anniversary of the season’s biggest game.

Thomas will serve as the Super Bowl’s down judge, the same officiating position she has for much of her time in the NFL. Her duties as down judge will set her eyes on the line of scrimmage each play. Stalking up and down the sidelines in Tampa Bay’s Raymond-James Stadium, Thomas will direct the chain crew on the spotting of the ball, looking for offsides or encroachment penalties in addition to checking the placement of the ball. She will play a part in any line of scrimmage penalties and pass interference calls, which can stunt the offense’s movement towards the endzone.

As the mother of three, Thomas certainly exudes the patience that an NFL official must have. Although her trademark blonde ponytail often stands in contrast to the rugged men that she monitors, the Mississippian is much, much more than an NFL diversity stunt. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, characterizes Thomas as “the best of the best”, saying, “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl.” Thomas has certainly paid her dues as a referee; she was a referee for the NCAA’s Conference USA for years before eventually moving through the now defunct United Football League and into the NFL.

Thomas will be one of five Mississippi natives in action on Super Bowl Sunday: the other four will be donning the red and gold of the Kansas City Chiefs. While Chris Jones of Houston, Mississippi, will hope to see his his face and the Lombardi Trophy together on the front of the New York Times, Thomas’ ideal performance will not garner such publicity. Aside from the ponytail, she will wish to blend in like every good referee should, exuding fairness to the point of invisibility.