Sarah Thomas created history on Sunday night after she became the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl in NFL history. Officiating in male-dominated sport, Thomas as the only female on the ground during the opening Super Bowl LV match between Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, stole the show from some of the day's biggest stars.
Thomas served as the down judge in the game, which oversees the line of scrimmage, manages the chain gang, rules on sideline plays, counts offensive players and reminds the head referee of the current down. However, this is just one of the many achievements of Thomas in a career spanning over five years.
It took 55 years for the Super Bowl to finally allow a woman to officiate a game. Needless to say, it was not only a big moment for Thomas but also in the game's history. However, this is Thomas' sixth season at the NFL. The 47-year-old Mississippi native and mother of two teen boys and a young daughter, became the first full-time female official when she entered the league in 2015.
Since then she has continued to break gender barriers across the sport. She first officiated a NFL playoff game in 2019. However, this time the achievement was bigger. On Sunday she became the first woman referee to officiate a Super Bowl game. Thomas was the down judge during the game, rounding out an officiating crew of seven.
Troy Vincent Sr, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, said: "Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official.
Thomas was easily recognizable on the ground on Sunday given the recent change in NFL officiating uniforms. Till the last season all NFL officials had to wear fitted ball caps, the kind without a large hole in the back, which meant Thomas, as the lone female member of the league's officiating corps, had no choice but to tuck her hair up into the cap.
However, from this year NFL has introduced snapbacks, which allowed Thomas to wear her hair in a ponytail laced through the back hole of her hat, making her markedly distinguishable from her fellow officials.
That said, Thomas had an interesting journey from a sports enthusiast in school to becoming the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl match on field. She had a successful career in basketball when she was a student at the University of Mobile.
Football was her next calling. She was also brilliant in academics and has a degree in communications. However, nothing came between her and her interest in officiating football matches. She would regularly attend meetings for aspiring officials and built up experience working in the women's game.
Grade school matches between young men then put her on her new path. Thomas' life changed after one day she received phone call from former Super Bowl referee Gerry Austin. The veteran Austin in his position as Conference USA's officials supervisor told Thomas that she had impressed a scout that had been watching one of the games she was officiating and he wanted to hire her.
Next was major college football. That was in 2007. Two years later she was part of an officiating crew. A place in the 2013 final of the NFL's officiating development program then paved the way for an envious journey in the sport. And since then there has been no looking back for Thomas.