Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller becomes the first woman to play in a Power 5 conference football game

BY: MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — No woman has ever played in a Power 5 conference game. That all changed on Saturday, when Sarah Fuller took to the field as Vanderbilt plays Missouri.

Fuller kicked off for Vanderbilt to start the second half of the game, in Missouri.

The history-making move came on the heels of a Southeastern Conference championship-winning soccer season for the Vanderbilt senior, who sported her soccer jersey number — 32 — for Saturday’s game.

Fuller told reporters after the game that she was “really calm” during her kickoff. “I was really excited to step out on the field and do my thing,” she said, adding that her soccer championship game was “more stressful.”

The athlete also had a message for her young fans.

“I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to, you really can,” she said. “And if you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things.”

For the game, Fuller wore “Play Like a Girl” on the back of her helmet, a nod to a nonprofit that encourages girls to become leaders in STEM by keeping them engaged in sports.

The athlete drew support from both Vanderbilt and Missouri spectators at Saturday’s game, with one self-proclaimed Mizzou fan sporting a sign cheering for Fuller.

The Commodores ultimately lost the game 41-0, and are now 0-8 for the season.

The goalkeeper was recruited as a kicker after several of the football team’s specialists had to quarantine this week due to COVID-19 testing, according to ESPN.

Fuller told Vanderbilt University the opportunity to help the team out would be “an honor.”

“I think it’s amazing and incredible,” Fuller said in an article on the athletic program’s website. “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 any way.”

Fuller also made history as the SEC’s first female football player, according to Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt’s head soccer coach, Darren Ambrose, said Fuller’s “the right person for the job.”

“So excited for you and for college football,” the coach said in a social media post.

Congratulations also poured in from the SEC, Tennessee Titans, Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL, tennis great Bille Jean King and Vanderbilt alums including Adena Friedman, the president and CEO of Nasdaq, who called Fuller a “tremendous athlete and role model.”

Fuller joins an elite company of female athletes who have competed in the Football Bowl Subdivision also as kickers: Katie Hnida for New Mexico in the early 2000s, and April Goss for Kent State in the mid-2010s.

Ashley Martin is believed to be the first female athlete to play and score in an NCAA Division I football game, for Jacksonville State in 2001.

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