Who is the female referee in Super Bowl 2021? Meet Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s first woman official

Sarah Thomas’ daughter was recently asked on a school assignment what she wanted to do in the future.

“‘I told them I wanted to be a mom,'” Thomas relayed, according to NFL.com, “‘a teacher, and a ref like my mom.'”

Thomas, the NFL’s only female official, will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl when she works the Chiefs vs. Buccaneers game on Feb. 7. The 47-year old Thomas, who’s been on the job in the NFL since 2015, said her daughter will be watching the big game from home. She won’t be the only young girl noticing Thomas and dreaming big.

“It’s just so meaningful,” Thomas said. “I never set out to be the first in any of this, but knowing the impact that I’m having on not just my daughter but young girls everywhere, women everywhere, when I get on that field, and I take it all in, I know that I’m probably gonna get a little teary eyed. It’s just remarkable, and I’m truly honored and humbled to be a part of this year’s Super Bowl crew.”

Thomas, a Pascagoula, Miss. native, began officiating youth and high school football games in her home state after graduating from the University of Mobile. She joined Conference USA in 2007 and worked in college football until her hiring by the NFL in 2015.

When Thomas began her NFL career, she served as a line judge. Since 2017, she’s been a down judge. That means she lines up along the line of scrimmage and watches for, among other things, offside and illegal contact by defensive backs on receivers near the line.

“She understood that the rules of the game of football should be applied within the spirit of the game and not within the technical writing of the rules,” former NFL official Gerry Austin said in 2015. “I’ve always (stressed) understanding the spirit of rules and don’t be technical. If there’s a call to be made, have the courage to make the call, and she fit within that framework. And she has great communication skills. She has the ability to calm the coach down and to explain whatever the coach is questioning. More times than not, a coach just wants to vent. We try to give him his 15-20 seconds to vent and then ask, ‘What’s your question?'”

Thomas is joined on the Super Bowl sidelines by two female coaches, both with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lori Locust is a defensive line assistant coach for Tampa Bay, while Maral Javadifar is an assistant strength and conditioning coach. 

“I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity, and I know that Coach Lo and, I’m sure, Sarah, feel the same way,” Javadifar told reporters this week. “I do look forward to the day when it’s no longer newsworthy to be a woman working in the pros, or making the Super Bowl for that matter.”

Hopefully the presence of Thomas, Locust and Javadifar on the Super Bowl sidelines is just the beginning. 

What is Sarah Thomas’ role as an official?

Sarah Thomas will serve as the down judge for Super Bowl 55, a role she’s held in the NFL since 2017 after two years as a line judge. The following are the down judge’s roles on each play type:

Sarah Thomas games as NFL official

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