PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It has recently been a Pascagoula tradition to give a key to the city to someone who is making their mark in the National Football League.
That was the honor given to 1991 Pascagoula High School graduate Sarah Thomas, whose name will now also forever be seen on the outside and inside of the city's recreational gym.
Thomas became the NFL's first full-time female offical this past season. Her first NFL regular-season experience was Sept. 13, 2015, in a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans.
The renaming of the local arena to "Sarah Bailey Thomas Gymnasium" was made official Thursday evening, and she credits her learning experience from her Pascagoula basketball days as a big reason why her career has already reached this point.
"It really did set me up for the rest of my life," Thomas said. "You're not always going to agree on everything but when you go out there between the lines, you give it your all and it's a team effort."
Mayor Jim Blevins presented the key to Thomas in front of a crowd of more than 100 people.
"We see [Sarah] as a role model for what we tell a lot of young people," Blevins said. "You've heard this many times. We say dream big, work hard and you can accomplish anything you want."
Blevins also presented a key to the city nearly one year ago to Senquez Golson, who was eventually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Golson was a standout cornerback at Ole Miss but was unable to compete in the NFL this season due to a shoulder injury.