The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Pro Sports

June 14, 2013

Female official closing in on NFL history

Thomas not seeking to 'shatter glass ceiling'


Thomas got into officiating as a way to remain competitive after completing her basketball playing days at the University of Mobile. One of her older brothers was an official, and she asked if she could tag along to one of his meetings in 1996.

What she saw there opened her eyes.

"When I got inside that first meeting, I was really just shocked that guys actually got together and studied rules and took a lot of pride in it," she said. "It was quite a challenge for me, not playing the sport and really after that first meeting realizing I had no clue about football."

Rather than scare her away from the game, the realization sparked Thomas' competitive drive. She threw herself into learning the rules and catching up with the guys.

Within three years, she was working high school games. And, after calling a state championship game in her native Mississippi, she surpassed many of her peers.

An NFL scout was in attendance, and he got Thomas in touch with Gerald Austin — a former NFL official who worked three Super Bowls and is now the coordinator of officials for Conference USA.

In 2007, Thomas became the first woman ever to officiate a major college football game, and two years later she reached another milestone by working the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit.

She's also found success at the professional level, calling games in the now defunct United Football League — including the 2010 championship.

Despite an impressive resume, Thomas is reluctant to single out individual highlights.

"I was one of those athletes, and if I thought for one second that an official thought this was a mediocre game as opposed to a big game, it would have really angered me," she said. "I take in on from a player's standpoint that these guys are giving it their all for the four quarters they're out there, and who am I to say that it's big game or not a big game? So every time I'm given the privilege to be out there on the field, it's a big game."

Text Only
Pro Sports
  • SPT - HB0819 - McAfee art George Bremer: McAfee can't wait for another shot at miracle finish Two days later, Pat McAfee still was kicking himself for missing a 64-yard field goal that would have provided an even more improbable finish to Saturday's 27-26 preseason loss against the New York Giants.

    August 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0818 - Griff Whalen art Rogers, Whalen heating up WR conversation Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen are competing so hard for the fifth WR spot, the Colts might be convinced to keep six.

    August 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • WEB Colts art 8-17 Giants rally past Colts in preseason home opener Pat McAfee truly believes he should have made a game-winning field goal for the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night. Never mind that the punter's attempt came from 64 yards out — a distance that would have equaled the NFL record set by Matt Prater last year. McAfee was focused only on the 27-26 loss against the New York Giants and how his right foot could have changed it.

    August 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0816 - Colts art Colts still in evaluation mode against Giants

    Many eyes will be turned toward Jonotthan Harrison tonight when the Indianapolis Colts host the New York Giants in their second preseason game. The undrafted free agent out of the University of Florida figures to be the starting center following Khaled Holmes' sprained ankle in the opener against the New York Jets.

    August 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0814 - Colts Camp - 130 Colts end eventful camp on light note

    Chuck Pagano threw his team a little curveball Wednesday to close out the 2014 training camp, providing a light-hearted finish to a three-week stretch at Anderson University that often tested the team's mettle.

    August 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • Contract's up, but AU confident Colts will return AU president James Edwards believes the school soon will begin working on a new deal with the Colts.

    August 13, 2014

  • SPT - HB0813 - Colts Camp - Luck Watch - 058.JPG Colts Quick Hits: Aug. 13

    News and notes from Colts training camp at Anderson University

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0813 - Colts Camp - Kerr - 032 Colts rookie Kerr not satisfied, not yet As an undrafted free agent rookie out of Delaware, Colts nose tackle Zach Kerr came into training camp knowing he had to prove himself worthy of a spot on the Indianapolis roster.

    August 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT - HB0813 - Colts Camp - Wayne - 126 Wayne making most of every moment in comeback

    Reggie Wayne had a surprise visitor during his media session Tuesday at Anderson University. And Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano just couldn't resist asking his wide receiver a few questions.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • SPT-HB0813-ColtsCamp-Bradshaw-068.jpg Bradshaw ready to test neck

    Ahmad Bradshaw isn't certain whether he'll make his preseason debut Saturday against his former team, the New York Giants. But the veteran running back firmly believes he will be ready to roll when the regular season opens Sept. 7 at the defending AFC champion Denver Broncos.

    August 12, 2014 1 Photo