Shannon Eastin will become the NFL's first female official. (Photo Courtesy: USA Today)
NFL preseason games are coming under increased scrutiny this year as replacement officials fill in for the locked-out referees.
But the league is using its latest labor impasse to make some history.
The San Diego Chargers-Green Bay Packers game Thursday night will be the first to have a female official on the field.
Shannon Eastin, a veteran of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will be the pioneer and perhaps an inspiration for others to follow.
Eastin, who has reffed football games for 16 years (the past four in the MEAC) will serve as the line judge.
The NFL confirmed the development Monday.
It would seem this is a culmination of Eastin's dreams, whether it's a temporary gig or one she can eventually parlay into more permanent employment.
"It may sound crazy to some people, but I think I can be in the NFL some day. I told them that I would go referee in the NFL Europe league for five years if that's what it takes," she told The Arizona Republic in 1999, after she'd already begun establishing her reputation in the interscholastic ranks.
"You've got to believe in yourself. If you don't, nobody else will."
She also indicated sexism shouldn't be a factor provided she's doing her job at a high level.
"I think that if a coach sees you working hard, making sharp calls, that they will respect you no matter who you are," she said in the 1999 interview. "You can't hesitate. You have tohave a court presence and a field presence."
The Bolts-Pack game will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
By Nate Davis