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Thomas was the first woman to officiate a major college football game, the first to officiate a bowl game, and the first to officiate in a Big Ten stadium. On April 8, 2015, Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history,[note 1] and for the 2020 NFL season, she was on the officiating crew headed by refereeShawn Hochuli. In February 2021, she became the first woman to officiate in a Super Bowl.
Thomas began her officiating career in 1996, when she attended a meeting of the Gulf Coast Football Officials Association. She worked her first varsity high school game in 1999.
In 2006, Gerry Austin, Conference USA's coordinator of officials who also refereed Super Bowls XXXI and XXXV, invited her to an officials' camp, due to Thomas proving her dedication and skills in the advancement of the industry. Austin was impressed with her skills and hired her for the Conference USA staff. In 2007, Thomas became the first woman to officiate a major college football game, working a game between Memphis and Jacksonville State. Before that game, Austin said, "She came highly recommended by two NFL scouts. She has a good presence and demeanor. I feel like she has the ability and courage to make a call, and the guts to not make one, too."
During the 2009 season, Thomas was one of five female officials in major college football and the only one at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. She was assigned to a crew and given a full schedule of 11 games. At the end of the season, she was selected to work the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio, making her the first woman to officiate a bowl game. Regarding her presence, Marshall running back and game MVP Martin Ward said "I noticed her before the game, but that was it. Once the game started, she was just doing the job that the line judge does in every game we play. It didn't matter that she was a woman at all."
On November 12, 2011, Thomas became the first woman to officiate in a Big Ten stadium, working as a line judge when Northwestern hosted Rice.
When asked about the challenges associated with being a football referee, Thomas claimed there have "not been any challenges" being a female in football and stated, "Everybody has been very professional, and they look at me just like another official", aiding in Thomas's defense to be viewed as equal to her colleagues.
On December 24, 2016, Thomas broke her wrist in a mid-game collision on the sideline of a Vikings-Packers game. After being looked at for a brief concussion protocol, Thomas returned and finished the game with the broken wrist.
In 2017, Thomas moved to the down judge position. The change in the position name from head linesman coincided with the move in order to use a gender-neutral term.