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With years of experience officiating at high school and college football games, Sarah Thomas is lined up to become one of the NFL's first female, permanent officials.
"It's always a positive when there's diversity,'' Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, says of Sarah Thomas. If everything goes as planned, Thomas will become a permanent official for the NFL as soon as 2014, according to the Associated Press. If the happens, Thomas will become the first woman permanent official to ever work for the NFL.
Thomas isn't new to the field however. She has been officiating football games since 1996, after attending the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. Working her way up to officiating high school varsity games, Thomas was eventually invited to referee by Conference USA. By 2009, she had a full schedule of games while working for the company and became the first woman to ever officiate a bowl game. She began the NFL officiating development program in 2010.
"It's just something that happened,'' Blandino told the AP. "She was in our pipeline for a while.''
Thomas has spent the past three days at the Indianapolis Colt's minicamp, working to train for a more permanent position. Stepping up from officiating college games to the NFL is a big deal that could take some practice.
"It's similar from when a players jumps from college to the NFL,'' Blandino said. "Getting used to that type of speed is important.''
The speed is definitely notable, Thomas admits, although she also believes that she is up for the challenge.
"The speed, yes, is there,'' Thomas told the AP. "These are just phenomenal athletes on both sides of the ball. The game has a tendency to slow down the most snaps you get and repetition. So, hopefully, the more snaps I get, things will start slowing down a little bit.''