SAN FRANCISCO -- Sarah Thomas just completed her first season as the first full-time female official in the NFL and has come to San Francisco -- her three children in tow -- for the league's first ever women's summit ahead of Super Bowl 50. She'll be among the event's speakers, and she sat down with espnW on the eve of her presentation.
espnW: Have you reflected on the barrier you've broken this past year?
Thomas: That's not why I did it, but I will tell you it's very surreal being in various venues, and seeing girls and people just giving thumbs up and wanting to wish you well and high fives and, "Can I take a picture with you?" That was very welcoming and I appreciated it, but I have a job to do.
Is it one of those things where, you know the adulation for the milestone won't really be there if you don't succeed at your first goal, at officiating?
Thomas: The pressure, I never felt the pressure. But when you know you have a job to do -- and then you walk out and you hear all these people say, "Go get it" -- of course the officiating world is under a lot of scrutiny regardless. Yes, I definitely wanted to do a great job, not because I wanted to be first but because I have a job to do. I have crewmates and colleagues and peers, and that is of the utmost importance. If I go out with that approach then hopefully the foundation is laid.
There was a lot of criticism of officiating this season -- what is a catch, individual calls. Is officiating in general under more scrutiny?
Thomas: With there being so much media and cameras, I think it comes with the territory. I think it's just the nature of it all, and as an official we take pride in [our jobs]. Any official, we're a fraternity. I'm just the sister that gets to be with them. And you want to see them succeed. If there's a mistake that's made by me or anybody else, you want to learn from it. You want to look at film and see what was -- or wasn't -- or why.
Is there a connection between the summit this week and the high-profile jobs women have claimed in the NFL in the past year?
Thomas: I don't know why there's such a heightened [level of success] with women and females, but I think it speaks to how life has evolved. Women want to go out and be successful, and guess what? You can. And you can manage a family or yourself, or whatever it is. I don't know why it [is all happening] in 2015, but maybe there are more women going after it.
I remember you said, when you walked into your first information meeting for aspiring high school refs, they looked at you like, "Why would you want to do this?"
Thomas: I was raised with brothers and a dad. I didn't see myself as a female athlete, I just saw myself as an athlete.
What do you want your boys to take away from your first year and the conversation around it?
Thomas: My biggest thing, not only for my boys but for my little girl too, is: Don't go out doing things in life to prove someone wrong. If you're playing baseball, if you're playing basketball, go out and do it because you've got to make a commitment to yourself and to your team -- and to whomever you're working with -- that you're going to be the best that you can be. And if someone else didn't believe that you could do it -- so what? Just be the best that you can be at any given time, practice or game.
The summit begins Thursday at 8 a.m. PST and will be live-streamed here. It continues Friday from 8 a.m. to noon PST.