PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - While some will be rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Super Bowl Sunday, one Coast family will cheer on the officials.
From Pascagoula to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay takes about eight hours by car but for NFL official Sarah Thomas and her family, it’s been a much longer journey.
Sunday when the lights come up on the NFL’s biggest stage, the Pascagoula native will take the field as the first female NFL official in the Super Bowl and her family was along for every step of the journey.
“I said, ‘Are you pulling my leg?’ I said, ‘I can’t believe it.’ and she said, ‘No Mama I’m really going to the Super Bowl,’” said Sarah’s mother Donna Bailey.
While her family members say they were beyond excited to hear the news... because of Sarah’s hard work and dedication to the sport, they weren’t too surprised.
“We knew that she had determination and whatever was put before her, she would conquer,” said her mother.
“Sarah’s always been the trailblazer,” said Sarah’s brother Scott Bailey. “Just get her the opportunity and she’ll show you what she can do. She puts her time and effort into it and she’s deserved it.”
On the field and off, Sarah’s family has always been her support system in more ways than one. Her two brothers Lea and Scott are also football officials.
“I am so proud of my daughter but I am also so proud of my two sons,” said Sarah’s father Spencer Bailey. “They are part of the reason she is where she is and they encouraged her and supported her in all the ways brothers can do.”
Growing up the siblings challenged each other and competed with one another... ultimately shaping who they are today.
“We pushed each other very hard when we played basketball one on one, she’s older than men and she challenged me. She made me better and I made her better,” said Scott.
At the end of the day, Sarah and her family know she has a job to do and they believe the skills that got her to the biggest stage in football will carry her far beyond it.
“To be where she is today is to her abilities, her desire, her commitment, her competitiveness to exceed,” said Sarah’s older brother Lea Bailey. “I think she’d rather not be known as the first female official just as an NFL official.”
“Just do the best you can each and every time you get the opportunity to do it and that’s her attitude about this,” said her father.
Sarah’s road to the NFL wasn’t always a well-paved highway.
There were plenty of bumps, detours, and roadblocks, but as Super Bowl 55 nears Sarah is blazing her own trail for future generations of women and that road is looking a little less gray and a lot more black and white.