Shannon Eastin, on the Brink of Becoming the NFL's First Female Official: 'I Know What I Signed Up For'
By: The Football Girl | Posted: August 07, 2012
Shannon Eastin, who Thursday night will be become the first female to officiate an NFL game, was clearly destined to do something in the world of football. “As I child I wanted to play football and my mother said no,“ said Eastin on a media call Tuesday.
As one of the replacements for the locked out referees, Eastin will be the line judge for the Packers-Chargers preseason game on Thursday night, a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN. She is fully aware of her place in history.
“For me, this is a dream come true. This is very exciting for me,“ she said.
Eastin comes to the NFL after 17 years of officiating experience, most notably in college football’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. When the NFL sent out a mass email a few months ago via their referee scouting department to ascertain interest, Eastin responded and says the process moved quickly from there.
In addition to her on-the-field duties in college, Eastin holds what she calls “two full-time jobs,” both in the world of officiating. She is Director of Officiating for the charter school system in Arizona and runs a self-named officiating business, SE Sports Officiating.
What Eastin will face Thursday and possibly beyond will be unlike anything she has experienced, and she knows it won't be easy. “The greatest challenge will be the rule differences,” she said. Absorbing the NFL’s complex rulebook has been the focus of her training, even moreso than mechanics or speed adjustment.
And for Eastin personally, a female breaking some pretty thick glass, she understands the pressure will be even more intense.
“I have always put the most pressure on myself. I know what I signed up for. I have to be bigger, stronger, better,” she said.
In large part, she is referring to her male counterparts who will receive the inherent scrutiny that comes with the job, but not even close to her degree.
(Photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
Eastin has received both encouragement and skepticism from retired and lockout officials, seeming to have a keen understand that the latter group has an agenda. “I’ve had officials tell me ‘you’ve never played the game, how can you officiate,’” she said. She did, however, note that Red Cashion and Jerry Markbreit, both NFL ref trainers, are two of her biggest supporters. In an interview we conducted with Cashion over the weekend, the ex-referee only had glowing reviews of Shannon’s work. “I hope all the replacements are as good as she is,” he said.
Eastin has already visited two training camps, Seattle and Arizona, and the players have been very encouraging. She pointed out Larry Fitzgerald’s kindness, in particular, and that said she got a ‘go get ‘em, girl,’ while at Seahawks camp.
What advice does Eastin, also the first female to officiate a junior college championship, have for young girls who want to follow in her footsteps?
“You have to work harder, and do everything in your power to control what you can. You never know who’s watching,” she said.
Eastin had NFL scouts watch her officiate high school games. It took a few years, but the rest is (almost) history.
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