- Associated Press - Thursday, August 9, 2012

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Shannon Eastin has become the first woman to officiate an NFL game.

Eastin broke the NFL’s on-field gender barrier Thursday night, serving as the line judge for a seven-man crew working a preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers.

Wearing No. 27 on the back of her official’s uniform, Eastin was dwarfed by the players as she lined up in front of San Diego’s sideline and had a camera following nearly every move before the game.

The 42-year-old from Tempe, Ariz., seemed at ease in the spotlight, though, and had at least two players shake her hand right before the opening kickoff.

Though she wasn’t involved in many calls until late, Eastin stayed steady among the giants and the national spotlight, earning her stripes by receiving the ultimate officials’ compliment: It was almost as if she wasn’t there.

It’s no surprise.

She’s a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, college football’s second-highest level, and a 16-year veteran of officiating. Eastin got her NFL shot as a replacement official, among a group taking the place of the regular refs, who are locked out.

And now, she’ll have a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Well, at least her cap will; the one she wore Thursday night is headed to Canton.

Replacement officials are working games for the first time in 11 years. Beginning with six games Thursday, they’re scheduled to work 16 games this weekend.

The crew working the Hall of Fame game last Sunday had some shaky moments and the officials at Thursday’s game between Buffalo and Washington were booed after muffing a touchback call. That added to Eastin’s pressure of being the first woman to officiate an NFL game _ in front of millions of viewers, no less, with the game on national TV.

Eastin is no stranger to breaking barriers, though.

A multiple national judo champion as a child, she started officiating high schools games, moved up to colleges and eventually to the MEAC, where she became the first woman to be a crew chief.

Eastin also owns a company called SE Sports Officiating, which trains officials in football and basketball.

Other than her size, Eastin seemed to fit right in before the game, chatting with the other officials, members of the chain crew and a couple of players. Chargers tackle Jeromey Clary and linebacker Antwan Barnes sought her out just before kickoff, shaking her hand and saying a few words before she ran down the sideline for the first time.

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