Vanderbilt’s Fuller becomes first woman to play in Power Five game


Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (L.G. Patterson/AP)

Sarah Fuller made college football history on Saturday for Vanderbilt University, becoming the first woman to play in a Power 5 conference game.

Fuller achieved the feat when she kicked off for Vanderbilt to open the second half of their game against Missouri. She was greeted on the sidelines by high-fives from her teammates after the play.

The kick was Fuller’s only play of the game as Vanderbilt was shut out by Missouri 41-0.

After the game, Fuller said she felt really calm before the kick and was excited to represent girls who want to play football or other sports.

“I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to, you really can,” Fuller said in a post-game interview. “If you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things.”

Fuller is a goalie for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team. The six-foot-two senior helped the program capture its first SEC tournament title since 1994 last weekend after upsetting top-ranked Arkansas 3-1.

Fuller got the call to the Commodores football team after several special teams players were placed in quarantine for COVID-19. Head coach Derek Mason reached out to the soccer team at Vanderbilt to look for reinforcements.

“Sarah, her nickname is Champ,” Mason said ahead of Vanderbilt’s game on Saturday. “Her teammates on this team call her Champ because she’s won two SEC titles. To see her in practice, the guys were impressed the first day she came out.

“She was fearless. She plays football the way she plays soccer. So for us, it’s a blessing in disguise.”

Donning “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet, Fuller took the field ahead of the contest wearing No. 32 – her soccer jersey number.

Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (L.G. Patterson/AP)

She was also seen speaking with her family in the stands before the game.

Before Fuller, no woman had suited up in any Southeastern Conference (SEC) games or for any of the other Power Five conferences, including the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference and Pac-12 Conference.

Liz Heaston was the first woman to ever play and score in college football with NAIA’s Willamette University on Oct. 18, 1997. Four years later, Jacksonville State University’s Ashley Martin became the first woman to play and score in a NCAA Division 1 game when she kicked an extra point against Cumberland University on Aug. 30, 2001.

In 2003, University of New Mexico’s Katie Hnida became the first woman to score in a NCAA Division 1-A, college football’s highest level.

Hnida was among those on social media celebrating Fuller’s historic kick.

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