Female La Salle grad looking to ref in NFL

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Samantha Davis, a 2014 La Salle graduate, is part of an NFL training program for female referees. (Clem Murray/Staff Photographer)

Samantha Davis was still in high school at Bishop McDevitt when her father would bring home tapes of football games he had officiated and review them.

Sometimes during these film sessions, she would walk by and say, "Wasn't that a penalty?"

And her father would tell her, "You should do this."

Davis is a 2014 La Salle University graduate who, in addition to taking her father's advice, is now taking graduate school classes in history at La Salle. She spends her weekends looking for pass interference and works a side job on the sideline at Eagles games.

Davis, who grew up in East Falls, was the eighth woman accepted into the NFL's Women in Officiating program. She began working games while she was in college. She worked in all sorts of leagues. Her father, Jerry Davis, used to assign games for a men's semipro league and gave her some. She also worked games for an independent women's league and the Indoor Gridiron League, an offshoot of the Arena League.

Her biggest worry, she said, is messing up a pass-interference call.

"So far so good," Davis said of life as a back judge. "I've been taught to not rush it. If the foul's there, it will still be there when the play is killed and you can throw your flag."

She also works the clock as part of a college crew, and when the Eagles have home games, Davis is at the Linc, working as the kicking-ball coordinator, part of the program she's in.

She's on the sidelines wearing a maroon shirt and maroon hat so everyone can find her.

"I go and meet the officials at the hotel. They give me the kicking balls," Davis said. "The league provides the kickers with six of the balls. When I get to the stadium, an equipment person from each team meets me, and they scrub the balls, and I supervise them. They have 45 minutes to scrub them down.

"I have two [footballs] with me all the time," Davis said. "The six are out on the field by the instant replay."

During the game, she stands by the head linesman or the line judge.

"I'm definitely watching the game from an official's point of view," Davis said. "Sometimes I'm just watching what the officials themselves are doing."

One recent rainy Saturday, Davis was at the George School in Newtown, Bucks County, out on the field before the game, writing down names of the captains in a little notebook. Then Davis took her own place as the back judge, working in the secondary.

Just like players, Davis has a progression of things to look for as a play unfolds. She knows her keys.

Once the ball is snapped, she'll look at the tight end "until I know he's not in danger" and that he's made a clean block. Then she has a zone to watch.

"If it's a running play, I watch behind the play, to watch for blocks in the back or holding," Davis said.

Why back judge?

"I wanted to be an umpire - I wanted to be in the middle of the field," Davis said. "My dad said to go back judge because I'm smaller. He felt I was safer there."

If players notice Davis' hair tucked into her hat, they don't say anything. With one little exception, she's gotten nothing but polite conversation from players, coaches, and fellow officials.

"I think the players are nicer to me than they are to the guys," Davis said. "Until I throw a flag."

The one incident occurred at an indoor game. Davis, still in college, threw a flag at a player arguing a call she'd made.

"One of the coaches said, 'She's a girl. She shouldn't even be out here,' " Davis said. "I didn't hear it, but the official at the sideline heard it."

At that point, the male official had a choice. Which fraternity was he in?

"He threw his flag," Davis said.

 


mjensen@phillynews.com

@jensenoffcampus