Football

Pascagoula’s Sarah Thomas is set to break another barrier as a female NFL official

Pascagoula native Sarah Thomas will again accomplish a first for a female NFL official.

Thomas will become the first woman to officiate an NFL playoff game when the New England Patriots play host to the San Diego Chargers at 12:05 p.m. Sunday in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The game will be televised by CBS.

Thomas, who works as a down judge, became the first full-time female official in NFL history in 2015.

Before entering the NFL, Thomas also worked on the college level in Conference USA and became the first female to work a bowl game.

Pascagoula High School renamed its recreational gymnasium the Sarah Bailey Thomas gymnasium in her honor in March of 2016.

“There was a lot of pressure being the first, but I didn’t feel it,” Thomas said after the Pascagoula ceremony in 2016. “It’s a job that was a lot of fun. I never got too high. I never got too low. I learned a lot from the referee crews I worked with.

“The fans were great. Dads wanted to take pictures with me, moms and girls asked for my autograph. I never set out to be a role model.”

Thomas has a day job as a pharmaceutical sales representative.

Another female also achieving a first on Sunday will be Terri Valenti, the NFL’s first female instant replay official, who will be working her first playoff game when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Indianapolis Colts at 3:35 p.m. Saturday.

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Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.
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