Women haven’t been to break into the NFL. There haven’t been female coaches, but there have been try outs (for publicity or otherwise) as kickers in the NFL, most recently at a Regional NFL Scouting Combine.
Shannon Eastin broke the barrier by being the first female official in a regular season NFL game in 2012. She was amongst the replacement referees brought in.
But it might be 39-year-old Sarah Thomas who gets the first full-time gig.
“It’s just something that happened,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating told the Associated Press. “She was in our pipeline for a while.”
Sarah Thomas has an impressive resume. She was the first female to officiate and NCAA Football game in 2007, and the first to work a bowl game as a line judge in the 2009 Little Ceasar’s Bowl. Thomas has also taken part in the developmental program during three days of Colts minicamp and will be eligible for a full-time job once she has completed the program.
She’ll also have to pass background checks and interviews. But also, she’ll need to wait for someone to retire and a job to open up. Shannon Eastin found herself under tremendous scrutiny revolving around her alleged gambling past.
But this biggest problem could be the speed of the NFL game.
“It’s similar from when a players jumps from college to the NFL,” Blandino said. “Getting used to that type of speed is important.”
Thomas acknowledges the speed, but isn’t worried about it and downplays its impact on her ability to officiate.
“The speed, yes, is there,” Thomas said. “These are just phenomenal athletes on both sides of the ball. The game has a tendency to slow down the more snaps you get and repetition. So, hopefully, the more snaps I get, things will start slowing down a little bit.”