NFL makes Sarah Thomas first full-time female official

Sarah Thomas will become the first full-time female official in NFL history.

The league made the groundbreaking announcement Wednesday, promoting the 19-year veteran after eight years with Conference USA.

"Knowing that the journey an official goes through," Thomas said in a sit-down interview with NFL Media's Judy Battista, "pee-wee, high school, if you're fortunate enough to even go to the junior college level, small college, Division I, then of course the National Football League. But you never dream that this would really come true."

Thomas comes backed with a strong resume, having been the first female official to work a major collegiate bowl game. She joins eight other referees granted first-time employment for league games.

"Our incoming officials have all demonstrated that they are among the best in college football," NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in a statement. "We are excited about having them join us."

Thomas had been doing some sideline work for Browns, Saints and Colts minicamp practices in the past, but she truly made her name through a strong resume at the NCAA level.

A Mississippi native, Thomas began working high school football in 1999 before making her way through the ranks. Her career milestones include a Rice-Northwestern game in 2011, which marked the first time a female official refereed in a Big Ten stadium. Her appearance in the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was the first time a female official worked a college bowl game.

"I don't feel that it's been harder for me because I'm a female," Thomas, who also works as a pharmaceutical representative, told ABC News in 2013. "I think that we are just out here working as officials. ... I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that's what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race."

Kevin Codey, Hugo Cruz, Bart Longson, Clay Martin, Aaron Santi, Shawn Smith, Jabir Walker and Walt Coleman IV, son of NFL officiating dean Walt Coleman, were also tabbed for first-time posts.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast welcomes back Colleen Wolfe to the show and breaks down team needs heading into the draft. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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