Shannon Eastin knows what she's up against. She will hit the field on Thursday night for the San Diego Chargers and Green Bay Packers preseason opener and make history as the NFL's first female referee.
Some people, including some current officials who are locked out, aren't sure how well she'll do. Never mind that she has 17 years of experience, including most recently, as a crew chief in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. And never mind that she's been in high-pressure situations before, notably as a world-class athlete in Judo when she was younger.
"Knowing that I'm a female in a man's world, I always place the most pressure on myself, understanding that everything I do will be magnified," Eastin said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. "I know what I signed up for."
Eastin will officially become the first female official to work a game when she takes the field on Thursday night as the line judge.
A native of Tempe, Arizona, Eastin recognized it wasn't feasible for her to play in the NFL, but it is possible for her to officiate a game.
"For me this is my dream coming true," Eastin remarked. "I'm honored the NFL has chosen to place me in this position I feel blessed I'm excited. I'm nervous in anticipation just like when I used to compete in Judo. This is very exciting for me."
Of course, the reason the NFL chose her is because the regular set of officials are currently locked out. The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have been in a labor stalemate throughout the summer, a situation that's led to replacement refs taking the field in last Sunday's preseason opener between the Saints and Cardinals. That was the first time a replacement ref has worked a game in over a decade.
Unless something changes -- and changes soon -- replacement refs will continue working preseason games. Eastin says she'll work with the NFL "as long as they need me."
Eastin acknowledged that in talks with current and former NFL officials, even those who are currently locked out, she's had "some positive and some negative" conversations. Those negative conversations likely center on the fact that Eastin is working this game while active NFL officials are locked out.
"Hopefully there is some understanding on their part that this is an opportunity for me that I had to do in the best interest of myself, just like they're doing in the best interests of themselves," she remarked.
Lockout issues aside, Eastin still has a game to work. She says the greatest challenge she faces is simply sorting out the rules in the NFL versus what she's used to in college. "We've been spending a lot of time on the rules. There are some rules that are very different from NFL to college," Eastin said.
In last Sunday's preseason opener, referees had a rough go of it at times, something Eastin will hope to avoid on Thursday night.
Check out the video below for the NFLPA's viewpoint on replacement referees.