You can tell Sarah Thomas lives for football—and that's all that should matter.
As such, there is a very good chance that she could soon become the league's first permanent female official.
The New Orleans Saints' official Twitter account gave us a look at Thomas working a team practice on Thursday morning, signaling that she is getting increasingly closer to reaching the "promised land" for football referees:
You can imagine how this all might be received. The majority will likely accept Thomas for who she is—a young, up-and-coming referee who has been officiating games across grade school, high school and college for the past 16 years. But, unfortunately, the world isn't always a perfectly accepting place.
There will be some who see the NFL as a man's game. Some who believe Thomas shouldn't be on an NFL field, or that she might just be a publicity stunt.
Those people, who hopefully only represent a very slim minority, would be wrong.
In terms of football knowledge, desire, work ethic and love for the game, Thomas isn't unlike other referees. Her dogged experience and consistent climb up the ladder should speak to the former, while hearing her talk showcases the latter.
NewOrleansSaints.com's John DeShazier recently interviewed Thomas, first asking about her excitement in the process of becoming an NFL referee.
Her answer exemplified a no-nonsense, I-do-this-because-I-love-it approach:
"It's just exciting to get back on a field and get in stripes. It's the start of football season."
It's that simple. Thomas isn't concerned about making history in the NFL. She isn't concerned about being a trailblazer for female referees. She's just happy to be back on the gridiron, making bad calls like the rest of the referees and doing what she is good at. She reiterated those points in her interview with McHugh:
"I don't feel that it's been harder for me because I'm a female," she said. "I think that we are just out here working as officials. … I think just on our credentials, just as officials, I think that's what moves us along, not because of our gender or our race."
The year is 2013. Diversity is undoubtedly beneficial to the NFL. It equals more fans, more viewership and, as is always the kicker, more money.
Still, though, that's just the perk. In the end, whoever is being hired should be hired on nothing more than their qualifications.
And Sarah Thomas unequivocally has all the qualifications necessary.