Sports

Who Is Sarah Thomas? NFL Ref to Be First Woman to Officiate a Playoff Game

Sarah Thomas is set to become the first ever woman to officiate an NFL playoff game this weekend.

Thomas will join referee Ron Torbert’s crew as a down judge when the New England Patriots host the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC Divisional Round at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, on Sunday.

The Mississippi native has been a trailblazer in football, in 2009 becoming the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game, then becoming the NFL’s first full-time female official six years later.

Read more: NFL playoff picture: Updated divisional NFC and AFC matchups

Thomas worked as a down judge for the past two seasons and was named as alternate for last year’s NFC Wild Card playoff game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams. She is now in her fourth season with the NFL.

Thomas attended the University of Mobile in Prichard, Alabama, on a basketball scholarship and was named an academic All-American.

At the time of her appointment as NFL official, Thomas said she was flattered to be considered an example for female officials, and left speechless when the league offered her the job.

"I've just been doing this truly because I love it," she said at the time, per CNN. "The guys don't think of me as a female, they see me as just another official."

On Sunday she will join a very experienced crew. According to Football Zebras, Torbert is in his ninth season in the league and fifth as a referee, and the matchup between the Patriots and the Chargers will be his seventh playoff game.

Torbert has received a playoff assignment in each year he has been eligible and has taken charge of three Wild Card playoffs and four Divisional playoffs.

Thomas isn't the only woman to be involved with NFL officiating crews this weekend, as Terri Valentini will be instant replay official when the Indianapolis Colts travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon.

Valentini is the NFL’s first female instant replay official, and the matchup will mark her first postseason involvement. 

Sunday will be the fourth playoff game between the Patriots and the Chargers, with the five-time Super Bowl winners winning each of the previous three meetings—which the Chargers contested as San Diego Chargers.

When regular season games are taken into account, the Patriots lead the all-time series 24-15 and have won the last four meetings between the two teams.

The game will also be the third playoff showdown between Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

At 41 and 37 years of age, respectively, the players have the oldest combined age of opposing starting quarterbacks in a playoff game in NFL history.

Brady has come out on top in each of the previous two meetings and is hoping to take the Patriots to the AFC Championship game for an eighth consecutive season.

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