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Saturday, August 17, 2013
Female official working Cowboys practices

By Calvin Watkins

OXNARD, Calif. -- During several Cowboys training camp practices, Cat Conti walked onto the practice fields like any other official.

There was just one difference. Conti is a woman.

Conti was the lone female official during the practices, lining up as a line judge. This is just another step in her journey of becoming an NFL official.

Currently, Sarah Thomas is ahead of Conti. Thomas, who is an official in Conference USA, is in the NFL's developmental program for aspiring officials. To get in the program, a candidate has to officiate five years at the Division I level.

"Who knows how that would affect my journey? I know she's on a journey and I'm on a journey, and I have to wake up every day and look myself in the mirror and to live with my convictions," Conti said. "My convictions is I want to get there."

Conti's road to just working NFL training camp practices is an interesting one. She refereed Pop Warner football games, moved up to middle school, high school and is currently working in the Mountain West, where she's entering her third season. Conti had a full-time job as a high school drama teacher and when football got in the way of teaching high school students her principal said to her "You need to think about what you want."

Conti wanted football.

"The athletes are at the top of their fields, so the speed and the size is remarkable, but it's not intimating or overwhelming," Conti said. "Yet, I'm glad I'm in a practice game. But it is a phenomenal opportunity."