If I hadn’t seen her on the jumbotron running onto the field where the flag was thrown, I would not have known otherwise. I looked at my husband and said, “Was that a woman?!?! That was definitely a woman! Did you see her?? The way she was running! Look at her build! She’s much skinnier! Did you see that?!?” But alas, he did not, and her call was not shown again.
It stuck in the back of my mind all day Sunday, that something was a little different about this certain referee. While I was snuggled up quite leisurely amongst my mountain of bed pillows with my iPad, catching up on all the football games, checking Twitter and such, I had to Google “UTSA Rice referees” Sunday to lay my wondering mind to rest. I found my answer, which was what I thought all along. Yes, my dear friends, there was a female referee officiating the UTSA v Rice game October 12th! Sarah Thomas, specifically. I nearly trampled my daughter, who was innocently watching “Alvin & The Chipmunks, The Squeakquel” on the same pillow mountain, to run and tell my husband the news. “It’s her! It’s her, the female ref yesterday! It’s her, Sarah Thomas! Sarah Thomas was at UTSA yesterday!” I almost cracked the screen of the iPad, (again), shaking it, pointing to her picture with my unusually long and sharp fingernails. The expression on my face was as if I had just won the lottery. I KNEW she was a woman; but the fact that I had read articles about her, and mentioned her on Twitter, shared articles on Facebook, and she was in the same location that I was….. ahhhhh, just magical. Can you feel my excitement?
She has made headlines this year for very good reason. She attended, and officiated, a New Orleans Saints spring scrimmage. Drew Brees, among other Saints, commented on the possibility of her becoming the first female NFL referee: “I think it would be hard for a a coach to yell at a female official maybe like he would a male official, and that’s just being honest.” He has a point. If a position opens up in the 2014 season, Thomas may very well find herself with an NFL job. Until that happens, though, she will keep officiating games on the college level, as well as high school, as she has been doing for the past 16 years. Here’s what she has been quoted as saying on the subject, “If I’m around the guys and I’m the only one out here wearing mascara and lipstick … they kinda pick up on it pretty quickly when they hear me talk,” Thomas said. “But I’ve had a lot of people say, ‘I told you that was a girl!’ when I left the field and had my hair down or something, so those are the games I want. I want to go unnoticed, just like the other six guys on the field.”
Going unnoticed is exactly what happened at UTSA’s game Saturday. She achieved her goal through and through. In a front row of men, I am the only one that noticed the difference!! (I’m sure she was on the jumbotron more than once, but this specific flag that occurred close to Rice’s goal line is when I saw and noticed). The men never picked up on it throughout the game.
AND! And!! As if I needed another reason to drool over her, she’s from my home state!! The wonderful Mississippi! It only makes sense, (her love of the game) seeing as how football is ingrained into all the youth of the South, particularly in SEC country. Sarah Thomas was born in Pascagoula, MS, a beach town, where she lettered five times in high school softball. She went to college at the University of Mobile on a basketball scholarship. She now lives in Brandon, MS, with her husband and three kids. (Her husband also coaches football.) At 39 years old, she is still young enough, has energy, gumption, and know-how, to be an NFL referee. It’s up to the NFL board, I presume, whether they can find an open position for someone that needs to tuck her hair under her cap.
YOU GO, GIRL!! Break those barriers!!
Follow me at @LaurieADyer, and gridirongirl.org at @gridirongirlorg.