Sarah Thomas could become the NFL's first full-time female referee. The self-described tomboy who's married with three children is close to breaking down the gender barrier.
The Mississippi native is one of 21 finalists in the NFL officiating development program, and is a top candidate for the next opening, reports ABC News
, which would make her the first female game official after almost 16 years of serving in grade school, high school, and college football games.
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"I didn't set out to break a glass ceiling or a gender barrier," Thomas told Bloomberg News in early July
. "If you're doing things because you love them, then things have a tendency to just kind of fall into place."
Thomas, 39, explained that her brother sparked her interest when he took her to a meeting for aspiring football game officials in the early 1990s.
"I got involved in officiating football because I was intrigued when these guys took it seriously," she told ABC News. "But then I was more challenged at, 'Hey, I really don't know the game of football,' and, being a competitor, I really wanted to see, 'Hey, what's in store with this?'"
Her ambitions allowed her to rise to set other firsts, as the first female official in a Division 1-A High School football game in Mississippi. She advanced to the college ranks in 2007.
"When I got started in this 17 years ago, I had no idea that there weren't any females officiating," Thomas said. "I never set out to become the first female official in the NFL. I'm just glad to be an official, wherever that may be, and just want to do the best job I can do."
A pharmaceutical representative off the field, Thomas has two sons and a daughter.
"I couldn't do this without the support of my husband and my kids," Thomas told ABC. "It [refereeing] has been a part of my children's lives ever since they've been here, so this is just what mom does."
There's no penalty in that.
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