Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller becomes first woman to play in Power 5 football 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. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
Columbia, Mo. • Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the first woman to participate in a Power Five conference football game when she kicked off to start the second half against Missouri on Saturday.
“Honestly it’s just so exciting, and the fact that I can represent like the little girls out there who wanted to do this or thought about playing football or any sport really and it encourages them to be able to step out and do something big like this,” Fuller said after the game.
Fuller kicked off the turf with a holder rather than using a tee, and she sent a low kick to the 35-yard line where it was pounced on by Missouri’s Mason Pack. Fuller didn’t get any opportunities in the first half as the Tigers opened a 21-0 lead over the Commodores.
She went straight to the sideline where she high-fived some of her new teammates and swapped some elbow bumps. Fuller’s parents watched and cheered from the stands along with her boyfriend and best friend.
Fuller said she was really calm when she went out for the second-half kickoff.
“The SEC championship was more stressful if I’ve got to be honest,” Fuller said. “I was really excited to step out on the field and do my thing.”
That was Fuller’s only chance in Vanderbilt’s 41-0 loss.
Fuller, a senior goalkeeper on the Vanderbilt soccer team, joined the football team this week after helping the Commodores win the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend. COVID-19 protocols and restrictions left Vandy football coach Derek Mason with a limited number of specialists available against Missouri. Mason reached out to the soccer team for help.
Fuller agreed to give football a try and practiced with the winless Commodores before making the trip to Missouri. She wore “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet. She wore No. 32 on Saturday, the same as her number when playing soccer.
After her kickoff, reaction poured in on social media. Fuller was the No. 2 trending topic on Twitter, followed by Vandy. Her soccer team wrote on Twitter: “Glass. Everywhere.”
Pat McAfee, a former NFL punter, reviewed Fuller’s squib kick, noting the ball didn’t go out of bounds and there was no chance of a return, setting up the defense.
“Congrats to (at)SarahFuller_27 for being THE FIRST EVER WOMAN TO KICKOFF A POWER 5 GAME,” McAfee wrote. “Incredibly rare to be the ‘1st ever person to do something’ these days..this is really cool.”
No woman had appeared in an SEC football game or for any Power Five team. Liz Heaston became the first woman to score with two extra points for Willamette in NAIA on Oct. 18, 1997.
Katie Hnida was the first woman to score at the Football Bowl Subdivision level with two extra points for New Mexico on Aug. 30, 2003.
April Goss was the second, with an extra point for Kent State in 2015. Tonya Butler was the first woman to kick a field goal in an NCAA game for Division II West Alabama on Sept. 13, 2003. New Mexico congratulated Fuller on Twitter for joining Hnida and Goss for kicking in an FBS game.
“Welcome to the club, (at)April_Goss and I are waiting with snacks!” Hnida wrote on Twitter on Friday.