First Female NFL Official Makes Lasting Impact on PFW Campus

By Lindsay Burke

After reaching a milestone in her officiating career in becoming the first female to officiate in the National Football League and the first to officiate in a Super Bowl, Sarah Thomas takes her professional experiences as a learning tool.

Thomas spent time meeting and interacting with students on the Purdue Fort Wayne campus last Tuesday.

Her message was clear, “prove to yourself that you belong where you are.”

Her message was not centered around her being the first, but rather ways students can be successful when they take that step into their professional careers.

Thomas urged students to find a mentor, someone to lean on when things get tough – because they will at some point. She went on to say “don’t look at these tough times as failures, but rather speed bumps.”

She urged both students on campus and those in attendance at her Omnibus Speaker Series appearance on that evening to reach for their dreams.

“That work ethic, that attitude, how you carry yourself, and your field presence, that recognition will come,” Thomas said. “Don’t do things for the recognition, do them because you love them.”

Thomas’ 10th season in the NFL has already begun as she is required to go through frequent testing to stay current on rule changes throughout the league. She does this all while raising her three children and working at a marketing agency.

It was brought up during the class lecture with students that officials in the NFL take a lot of criticism, but Thomas has trained herself to block out the negative noise and focus on what she can control in perfecting her craft.

Being in the public eye can have its negatives, but the importance of being self aware of what is being posted on social media and how we carry ourselves when we’re out is vastly important.

Thomas shared with the audience that she was scouted by the NFL while officiating a football game. She got their attention not because she was a woman, but because of her field presence and the way she carried herself.

She went on to say that she didn’t even know that scouts for NFL officiating existed, but because she carried herself with professionalism and dignity, she stood out.

Thomas continues to pave the way by traveling around the country sharing her experiences with students. To motivate and guide them into the mindset that anything is possible.

For more information on the Omnibus Speaker Series visit

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