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Why NFL referee Sarah Thomas wore an angel over her heart at the Super Bowl

Thomas had a little piece of her parents with her during her history-making turn at the big game.
/ Source: TODAY

Sarah Thomas made history when she became the first female referee at the Super Bowl during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ win over the Kansas City Chiefs, an accomplishment that made her family proud, even if they couldn't all be there in person.

Thomas, 47, told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on TODAY Wednesday that her parents, who could not attend the game due to COVID-19 restrictions, gave her a note with an angel pin to let her know how proud they are.

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Sarah Thomas on the field during Super Bowl 55.Patrick Smith / Getty Images

“Wear this angel somewhere on your uniform and know we are with you in spirit!” the note read. “Have a great game! Love you.”

Thomas said her mother had used the angel before and tracked it down for this milestone, prompting her to wear the accessory during the game.

“She pinned a little angel on my shirt when I was 18, a freshman in college,” Thomas said. “And she told me that she couldn’t be there with me all the time, but she would be with me in spirit and that God would be watching over me, so she found that angel and she pinned it like you see on that note and it just said that they wouldn’t be there with me in person, but if I would just wear in on my uniform, and I did, right underneath on my heart, on my little undershirt.”

Thomas made history by working the Super Bowl.Mark Humphrey / AP

Thomas, who was cheered by fans on social media, has been a referee for over two decades, becoming the first full-time female official in the NFL in 2015 after she also was the first woman to referee a major college football game in 2007.

She says her parents were a big influence on her achieving her goals.

"I just have to commend my mother and father for laying such a wonderful Christian foundation for all of us at home and just never depend on anybody for anything and hold yourself accountable. Don't make excuses," she said.

The mother of three, who cites hard work and dedication among the traits one needs to make it as a referee, also said her own kids appreciated her making it to the Super Bowl.

“They are very proud and it was so meaningful to have them all there for this moment,” she said.