Fuller, a senior goalkeeper on Vanderbilt’s SEC championship soccer team, sent the low kick to the 35-yard line where it was downed by Missouri. Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said Fuller executed the so-called squib kick exactly as it was designed.
“Honestly, it’s just so exciting,” Fuller said after the team’s 41-0 loss. “The fact that I can represent all the girls out there that have 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, it’s awesome.”
Fuller said she was calm as she took the field in Missouri, adding that playing in the SEC championship game was more stressful.
But seeing the reaction to her making history on social media has been far more than she imagined. She said she had to mute the notifications on her phone this week to stay focused.
Last Saturday, Fuller wasn’t even on Vanderbilt’s football team. She and members of the soccer team watched on TV as the Commodores lost to No. 6 Florida.
Then, on Monday, a member of coach Mason’s staff called to see if she was interested in trying out. Vanderbilt was down a number of specialists due to COVID-19 testing, and needed a kicker. Fuller went out to practice and did well enough to make the team as the only kicker on the travel roster.
Fuller took the field against Missouri with a special sticker on the back of her helmet which read, “Play Like a Girl.”
“All I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there because there were times I struggled in sports,” she said, “but I’m so thankful that I stuck with it, and it’s given me so many opportunities and I’ve met so many amazing people through sports, and I just want to say that literally you can do anything you set your mind to.”
Sarah Fuller receives a standing ovation as she kicks off and becomes the first woman to play in a Power 5 conference college football game.
Mason said that Fuller joining the team happened out of necessity because a number of specialists had to be quarantined because of COVID-19 testing. But Fuller could have said no, Mason said, and she didn’t. Mason called her “a trooper” and “a champ” for how she handled herself all week.
“I think there was something bigger at work here,” Mason said. “I’ve always believed that women are capable of doing fantastic things. I know we think of football as being a man’s sport, and it is for the most part — 99.9% of it is dominated by males, if not close to 100. But today she broke some history, she made some history.”
While Fuller didn’t get the opportunity to kick a field goal or an extra point against Missouri, she said she made a field goal from as far away as 38 yards in practice earlier in the week.
Whether she continues with the team is up to her, Mason said, adding that, “If she wants to kick and she’s available, we’d love to have her.”
Fuller said she’d be happy to.
“I would love to get out there and score a field goal, I would love to go out there and get an extra point and everything,” she said. “So I would be happy to if they’ll have me. I love the team. They are amazing. The entire staff has been so incredible in this transition, and I could not ask for a better team behind me to get me prepared. But, honestly, I’m having so much fun, and I want to learn more about how to kick and how to do things better because I think I really can refine it and get better from here.”
— Vanderbilt Football (@VandyFootball) November 28, 2020
In 2001, Ashley Martin became the first woman to score at the Division I level when she kicked three extra points for FCS Jacksonville State against Cumberland on Aug. 30, 2001.
Two years later, Hnida was the first woman to score at the FBS level with two successful extra points against Texas State.
Fuller, who went to high school in Wylie, Texas, began playing soccer at age 5. She was a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member at Vanderbilt. Earlier this month, it was announced that she would attend North Texas as a graduate transfer for next season while playing soccer for the Mean Green.
She appeared in nine games during her senior season, making 28 saves and posting a record of 7-2.