Phoenix-area woman talks about being the first female official in the NFL

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(Source: NFL, 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: NFL, 3TV/CBS 5)

After years on the road, Shannon Eastin is content to spend her days at home in Arizona.  The NFL's first female official is beyond busy, scheduling officials to work at high school games all over the state.  

"The very first high school game I did on the Varsity level was Maryvale Trevor Brown," said Shannon Eastin, in an interview at her Scottsdale home.  "That was fun."

Shannon worked her way up from Friday nights in Arizona to Sundays in the NFL.  The journey took sixteen seasons, with her opportunity to work coming during a 2012 labor dispute between the NFL and its officials.

"At that time there was a lot of media attention,"  said Eastin, who broke the gender barrier on September 8, 2012 between the Lions and Rams.  "My phone was ringing continuously.  I wasn't really into facebook but at that time I did deactivate my account because it was full.  But once I stepped on the field I could finally breath."

The group of officials who stepped in was known as the "replacement refs."   Shannon received compliments and recommendations from players, coaches and even some fans.   A botched call on Monday Night Football, in a game she wasn't working, ended the "replacement refs" story and Shannon's NFL dream.

[VIDEO: Phoenix-area woman talks about being the first female official in the NFL]

In addition to being a "gender barrier breaker," she had also been a "strikebreaker."  The fact that she hadn't stood with the locked-out officials cost her dearly.

"When I told my supervisor he said "you can get there without this," said Eastin.  "I said I understand that but I've been trying to get there without this.  It's time for me to either do and prove myself or just find a new direction to go, or find something else to do"

Shannon wouldn't use the term blackballed in the interview.

"That's what everybody else says," said Eastin.  "And I believe that no matter how many people didn't like what I did, I challenge them to say I didn't prove myself.  Watching film I believe I did."

After a return to college football, Shannon decided to start her company at home in Arizona.  She schedules sports across the spectrum, from the varsity level to youth sports.  Shannon hopes to make a difference on and off the field.

"The thing that I'm most proud of is out officials in Arizona," said Eastin.  "Officials that work for me go out once every other year,  work and don't get paid, so I can buy teddy bears and puppy dogs for a family who cares. We take to PCH, group homes.   The officials in Arizona have totally blessed me because they've bought into my vision that there's more to collect a paycheck and there are so many people, that even a tiny teddy bear can make a difference in some kids life."

Shannon will still officiate local games from time to time to stay sharp.  Her next project is to write a book detailing her journey.

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