PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - This year's Pascagoula High School's homecoming parade had meaning beyond preparing for a football game. For many students, the parade's grand marshal, Sarah Thomas, served as inspiration for life.
Student council homecoming organizers pushed for Thomas to lead the parade. For them, the NFL's first female official was the perfect choice.
"She went through life and people were telling her no. You can't do this. You can't be a female referee. This is a man's world. This is something that women don't get to do," said senior Joseph Hasbrouck. "And just as with the spirit of Pascagoula, she said. 'No, this is what I'm going to do.'"
For junior Zyan Patterson, Thomas' life has made her more confident about her planned career.
"I want to be a lawyer," she said. "And some men don't take women seriously when they do stuff. But this just lets me know that even if they don't take me seriously, I can push and push and work hard and keep God first and I can do anything that a man can do and hold up for myself."
Thomas, a 1991 graduate from Pascagoula, began officiating in 1996. It wasn't long before she broke through the college ranks and just this year, she made history as an official in the NFL.
Even as a junior high student, she showed promise. Artie Stewart was her science teacher.
"I always told them that you try to do the best, work hard all the time and I see she excelled anything that I could have told her."
The timing couldn't have been better for student council advisor Elizabeth Bonilla.
"Her mom said it would be a hard task to get her here and when she called, she said, 'What are the odds that's the one weekend that I have off?'" she said. "So it just worked out perfect. She was meant to be our grand marshal."
After the parade, Thomas was honored with a plaque during the schools' bonfire and pep rally on the beach. And, although she wanted to talk to WLOX for this story, NFL rules prohibit her from doing interviews.