Sarah Fuller made history Saturday as the first woman to play not only in the SEC, but also any Power 5 football game.
Fuller — called into action this week because of contact tracing limiting Vanderbilt’s specialists — played her first snap out of halftime, squibbing the ball to Missouri at the start of the third quarter:
“I think it’s amazing and incredible,” Fuller told VUCommodores.com of her opportunity on Friday. “But I’m also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do and I want to help the team out and I want to do the best that I can. Placing that historical aspect aside just helps me focus in on what I need to do. I don’t want to let them down in anyway.
“It’s an honor they called on me to be able to do this and help them out.”
Fuller isn’t just a history-making football player, however. She’s also a champion soccer player for the Commodores who is inspiring others to “play like a girl.” Here’s everything you need to know about Fuller after her history-making debut:
She had only a few days to prepare to kick
Fuller, a senior, thought she had finished her collegiate athletic career when she received a call from Vanderbilt women’s soccer associate head coach Ken Masuhr (she had just helped Vanderbilt to an SEC championship on Sunday). He asked Fuller whether she had kicked a football and, if so, whether she’d want to stay over Thanksgiving weekend to kick for Vanderbilt against Missouri.
Later that day, she was on the practice field, joining the other Vanderbilt specialists in preparation to play Missouri.
“I made the first one and I kept making them,” Fuller told VUCommodores.com. “It sounds really good to me. It’s different than a soccer ball, but it felt good.”
Less than a week later, she made history for Vanderbilt, the SEC and college football.
She’s the first woman to play in a Power 5 game
Fuller isn’t the first woman to play a college football game — still a rare occurrence — but she is the first female Power 5 football player.
She follows in the footsteps of players such as Liz Heaston, the first woman to score in a college football game, for Willamette in 1997; Tonya Butler, the first woman to kick a field goal in an NCAA game, for West Alabama in 2003; and Katie Hnida, the first woman to score at the FBS level, for New Mexico, in 2003.
She helped Vanderbilt women’s soccer win its first SEC title since 1994
Fuller played soccer four years for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team, but didn’t get her first start until this year against South Carolina, in October. She earned six saves in her debut.
Overall, she finished with a 7-2 record in nine starts, tallying 28 saves, three shutouts and a 75.5 save percentage. Moreover, her 0.97 goals-against average is the eighth-best in Vanderbilt history in a single season.
She helped the Commodores to an 8-4 season in 2020, capped by four straight wins in the SEC Tournament: a 4-0 win over Mississippi State, a 4-2 win over No. 13 Tennessee, a 3-1 win over No. 8 Texas A&M and a 3-1 win over No. 6 Arkansas. It was the team’s first SEC title since 1994.
She finished with eight saves over the last four games.
Her helmet has ‘Play Like a Girl’ written on the back
Fuller isn’t shy about letting people know she’s the first woman to play at the Power 5 level. In fact, she’s hoping to inspire others to follow her and her predecessors’ footsteps by “playing like a girl.”
That’s the message she has on the back of her helmet, after all:
Vanderbilt has been supportive of the history-making moment as well:
But Fuller’s history-making debut isn’t just an inspiration. It also brought attention to “Play Like A Girl!” — a nonprofit organization that encourages girls to play sports and get more STEM opportunities.