Shannon Eastin is making history this week as the first woman to referee a National Football League game and she acknowledges that she is a bit of a pioneer.
“I would say probably most of the way, to some degree, yes. Even in my previous experience in judo, I did a lot of things that were first there,” Eastin said in a news conference Tuesday.
“I’m excited. Every step is hope that I can continue to show it really doesn’t matter male or female, as long as you work hard,” Eastin said.
She is getting her chance in part because the league’s regular officials are locked out in a labor dispute. It’s not clear whether she would be able to stick in the NFL once a new deal is signed.
“I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing and work with the NFL as long as they need me. Should that change, pursue going back to college or you never know,” she said.
Eastin is no rookie to the game. She enters her 17th season as a football official. She spent the last four seasons refereeing college football in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), which fields 13 teams competing in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division 1-AA.
“For me this is my dream coming true. I’m honored the NFL has chosen to place me in this position. I feel blessed and excited. I’m a little nervous in anticipation,” Easton said.
This isn’t the first time Easton has been in the spotlight. She is a world-class judo athlete, earning six national judo championships. At age 11, she was the youngest judo athlete to ever be accepted to train at the United States Olympic Training Center.
She feels her greatest challenge this week will be the rule differences of the NFL game. Easton said she’s been spending a lot of time on the rules in terms of positioning, and fortunately the mechanics are quite similar.
There has always been pressure on Eastin in this profession, but she plans to take negative criticism or potential backlash from an unpopular call in stride.
“Knowing that I’m a female in a man’s world, I’ve always put the most pressure on myself. Pretty much everything I do is going to be magnified. I know what I signed up for,” Eastin explained. ”I have to be bigger, stronger, know that I understand the rules. I have to do things even better than the men that are working. And I’m ok with that.”
For more got to SOURCE