The NFL has hired its first time full-time female official, the league announced Wednesday.
Sarah Thomas, a native of Mississippi who began her officiating career in high school, worked games before leaving to continue her career in pharmaceutical sales. She was then contacted by Conference USA, and began working for the conference in 2007. She became the first woman to officiate a bowl game in 2009.
Thomas then joined the NFL’s Officiating Development Program, worked some New Orleans Saints' training camps, and also officiated a NFL preseason game last August.
Thomas, who will be one of nine new officials next season, will be a line judge.
Thomas told NFL Network last year that she doesn’t feel like a pioneer and did not face any resistance from others while in the development program.
"I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football," she said. "Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time, so no, I don’t feel like a pioneer."
The Los Angeles Times reported that Thomas is one of eight new officials—seven men and one woman—picked for the 2015 season, pending physical examinations.
With four officials from last season retiring, four of the new ones will not be assigned a certain crew, the Times reported.
In 2012, Shannon Eastin, who was hired as a non-union official during the 2012 lockout by referees, was the first woman to officiate a regular season game in a contest between the St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions.
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