Local woman knows what it's like to ref among giants

Local woman knows what it's like to ref among giants

HILLSBORO, Ore. – For the first time in history, a woman officiated an NFL game Thursday night.

There's a lockout right now with the regular referees in a contract dispute with the NFL. The league needed replacements and 42-year-old Shannon Eastin saw her chance.

Locally, Rebecca Brisson was one of the first ever female high school referees in the Portland area and she knows what it's like to be face to face with athletes two to three times her size and show no fear.

For starters, forget about flattering outfits or a perfect fit, Brisson doesn't have time to worry about fashion when she pulls on a men's small t-shirt and socks before refereeing a high school football game.

She's no stranger to the game. She grew up around it and plays on a woman's team too. But standing just over five feet tall, it was a lot at first.

"Put pads and cleats and helmets on them, and they'll definitely tower over me," Brisson says about the players.

And she's gotten the same warm welcome as any ref.

"'Are you blind? Do you need glasses? Is your flag stuck in your belt?'" she says about the insults she's received during games. "They don't yell at me any differently than if it was a guy."

Brisson says it took some guts to get out there and knows when Eastin steps on the NFL field she might feel a few nerves too. So she has a few words of wisdom for her.

"Be confident in yourself. You obviously got here for a reason. You do a great job. Believe in yourself, make your calls and be confident in what you do," Brisson says.

Before Thursday night's game featuring the Chargers and Packers, a couple of players sought Eastin out to give her a few words of encouragement and shake her hand.

The night will also be remembered at the NFL Hall of Fame. The league is sending Eastin's official referee hat to Canton, Ohio after the game tonight.