National Football League’s Officiating Development Program member Sarah Thomas is working Thursday’s New Orleans Saints practice as part of the program.
Thomas is a finalist to become a permanent NFL game official. Should she accomplish this feat, she would become the first woman ever to do so.
The NFL Officiating Development Program identifies top-level officials with NFL potential and seeks to aid in their officiating development through a series of on and off-the-field training programs. The most advanced officials in the program, including Sarah, are considered finalists for NFL openings when they arise.
Thomas' football officiating career dates to the early 1990s, when she attended a meeting for aspiring football game officials with her brother, Lea. Then in 1996, Thomas became the first female to officiate in Division 1-A High School football game in the state of Mississippi.
Thomas began officiating at the college level when she was hired by Conference USA in 2007 and will officiate as a line judge in the conference this season.
She also was the first female selected to officiate a bowl game when in 2009 she took the field in Detroit for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. In addition, she has twice been selected by the NFL to officiate the Under Armor Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
In addition to her C-USA position, Thomas worked two seasons in the United Football League.
Off the field, Thomas works as a pharmaceutical representative for Novo Nordisk, Inc. She is an active member of Pinelake Baptist Church in Brandon, Miss. She is heavily involved in the Upward Basketball ministry at Pinelake where she has served as a commissioner, coach for each of her boy’s teams, and officiates the Friday night games.
Born in Pascagoula, Miss., in 1973, Thomas is a native of Jackson County and has lived in the Reservoir area since 1999 with her husband, Brian. She and Brian are blessed with two handsome, healthy boys, Bridley (12) and Brady (9) and a newborn baby girl, Bailey (7 months).