The NFL officially hired Sarah Thomas as a line judge Wednesday, making her the league's first full-time female official.

Thomas is among nine new full-time officials hired by the NFL for the upcoming 2015 season. Her hiring was first reported last week.

Thomas had been working as a college football referee for eight years in Conference USA. She became the first woman to officiate a major college football game when she worked a Memphis-Jacksonville State game in 2007.

Two years later, she was selected to work the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl between Marshall and Ohio, becoming the first woman to officiate a bowl game.

In 2013, she was among 21 finalists in contention for a permanent NFL officiating position. She worked Saints practices and spent three days at an Colts minicamp.

Thomas, 41, will not be the first female official to work an NFL game, however. During the officiating lockout in 2012, the league hired Shannon Eastin as a temporary, nonunion official. She officiated a regular-season game between St. Louis and Detroit.

"I know that I will probably stand out being the first," Thomas said, "but as far as players and coaches, I've been around a good little while, and I think they know who I am and just want to make sure I can do my job."

Jets sign ex-Vikings linebacker Henderson

The New York Jets signed former Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson, who sat out last season after dealing with off-field issues.

Henderson was released by the Vikings on Feb. 7, 2014, after being arrested twice in a six-week span on DWI charges.

Henderson said that he entered an inpatient rehabilitation facility after the second arrest, and considered himself "a recovering alcoholic" but felt he was turning his life around.

Henderson was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2008. After three seasons as a backup, he became a starter and had his best year in 2013 with career highs of 112 total tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. He has 266 career tackles and 8.5 sacks.

Welker visits Dolphins

Wes Welker, who played for Miami from 2004 to 2006 is visiting the Dolphins. … The Jets further bolstered their offense by adding former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. … Art Powell, who led the AFL in yards receiving in back-to-back years for the New York Titans and Oakland Raiders, died. He was 78.

CFL changes its extra points rules

The CFL approved a series of significant rule changes. Extra points will now be kicked from the 32-yard line instead of the 12. Going for the 2-point conversion could become less challenging, though — and more attractive. That try will come from the 3 instead of the 5.

horse racing

American Pharoah is favorite

American Pharoah is the heavy favorite for Saturday's $1 million Arkansas Derby. American Pharoah was made the 1-2 morning-line choice and drew the No. 6 post in a field of eight 3-year-olds entered Wednesday for the 1⅛-mile race. American Pharoah, who will be ridden by Victor Espionoza, won the Rebel Stakes by 6 lengths during his last visit despite losing a shoe on a sloppy track. Far Right, winner of the Smarty Jones and the Southwest, is the 9-2 second choice with Mike Smith aboard. Madefromlucky, runner-up in the Rebel, is the third choice at 6-1.


Soccer: Goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who made 102 national team appearances and was on the roster for four World Cups, was elected to the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame along with Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid and the late coach Glenn "Mooch" Myernick.

Tennis: American Lauren Davis beat top-seeded Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-1 at the Family Circle Cup a short time after No. 2 seed Ekaterina Makarova withdrew because of a stomach illness.