TAMPA, Fla. (NEXSTAR) — If anyone knows the pressure Sarah Thomas will feel as Sunday’s Super Bowl gets underway, it’s Jen Welter.
Thomas will be the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl game. Welter was the first woman to coach in the NFL.
“The opportunity and responsibility of being first is to ensure you’re not the last,” Welter said. “When you’re the one of one, you’re the only sample that they have and the narrative isn’t your own.”
She saw that when she started coaching for the Arizona Cardinals.
“It’s not, ‘Can Jen Welter coach in the National Football League?'” she recalled. “The question was, ‘Can a woman?'”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are competing against the Kansas City Chiefs in the big game, now have two women on their coaching staff, a testament to the job Welter did.
She said she’ll be thrilled to see Thomas at work Sunday.
“It’s the biggest platform of sports and she’s earned her way there the right way. And I think it is going to give generations something they didn’t even know that they were missing,” Welter said.
Thomas was also the first woman to officiate in a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game and the first to officiate in a Big Ten Stadium.
The secret to her success, she said in an interview in 2016, is that she loves what she does.
“My biggest thing, and I’ve learned this myself, is go out and do it because you love it. Don’t do it to prove somebody wrong because I’m a female and I need to make a statement,” she said. “Just go out and do the job because it’s something you want to do and the respect will come. Don’t go looking for it.”