Terri Valenti breaks ground in becoming first female instant replay official

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Terri Valenti has five sons, so dealing with football players is a walk in the park.

“At first, [coaches and players] give me a little bit more space, which I use to my advantage,” Valenti said Friday during the NFL’s annual officiating clinic, “but I also have five sons, so I understand boys a lot. It’s just natural for me.”

This season, Valenti becomes the NFL’s first female instant replay official in the booth, two years after Sarah Thomas became the league’s first full-time official on the field.

“It’s a positive benchmark in society that we’re not sort of in an old-school, old-boys mentality,” referee Brad Allen said.

Valenti began officiating games in 1999 and has experience as an on-field official at the high school, college, minor league and international league levels as well as spending the 2009 season in the United Football League. She spent four seasons as an instant replay communicator for the league from 2012-15 and then as a replay assistant last season.

Valenti earned a promotion this season as the NFL named her one of the 17 instant replay officials. She will act as the go-between for the on-field referee and the NFL’s centralized operations in New York, where Alberto Riveron, the league’s director of officiating, will make decisions on reviews.

“It hasn’t been done before, but I’m not the one and only trailblazer,” Valenti said. “There have been many women ahead of me in the officiating world who have broken ground, and I’m just really honored and pleased to be here, and I’m thankful that the NFL and the league office now gave me this opportunity.”