Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller Set Out To Be A Role Model And Made History In The Process

There’s no question this is a landmark year—one that, for a myriad of reasons, will be viewed in the years to come as a major inflection point in our respective lifetimes. For instance, this upcoming college football Saturday will be must-see television when Vanderbilt University and the first-ever female player on a Power Five conference team take on the 11th ranked Georgia Bulldogs. Should you tune in to see Sarah Fuller lining up for kickoff, know that she won’t be making history—she did that last week.

I recognized what a monumental milestone it was when my 11-year-old daughter, Maddie, bounced around our living room with excitement about my favorite sport. Not once had she ever talked endlessly about a specific football game until this particular one being played in Columbia, Missouri, featuring a winless Vanderbilt team. The contest dominated every national headline because for the first time ever, a female student-athlete put on the helmet and shoulder pads to compete in the NCAA’s highest division and arguably the sport’s toughest conference. Sarah Fuller is now the name my daughter will never forget and for good reason—when she trotted onto the field as starting kicker for the second half of her team’s blowout loss to the Missouri Tigers, she executed a squib kick and shattered a ceiling. On Tuesday she was named SEC football co-player of the Week.

Each of us has at least one moment that changes our lives and inspires us to think beyond our wildest dreams. Each of us has a role model or a person significant enough to us that we stop whatever we’re doing, and observe what they do in marquee moments. In this instance, Fuller was not afraid to step up while everyone was watching. She embraced the moment and reveled in the opportunity it brought for her to be a role model. Fuller has handled the attention with great poise and composure. In every media appearance since this past Saturday’s game, she’s reinforced her intentions of being a role-model for little girls everywhere more so than being in the history books for all-time.

Just last month, Fuller’s prowess on the soccer pitch, as starting goalkeeper, helped Vanderbilt secure the Southeastern Conference Championship. And while the 21-year-old who stands 6’2’’ and has been seen kicking soccer balls from nearly goal post to goal post, was making plans to join her family for Thanksgiving, she answered a call to join a football team who was in dire need of

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Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt kicker, set to make college football history

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Women’s soccer player Sarah Fuller will don a football uniform Saturday for Vanderbilt and is poised to become the first woman to play in a Power 5 game when the Commodores visit Missouri.

“Let’s make history,” senior Sarah Fuller wrote Friday on Twitter with a photo of herself wearing a football jersey with a soccer ball between her feet while holding a football in her hands.

No woman has appeared in an Southeastern Conference football game or for any Power 5 gridiron 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.

A senior from Wylie, Texas, Fuller made three saves last weekend as Vanderbilt upset top-seeded Arkansas 3-1 in women’s soccer to capture the program’s first Southeastern Conference Tournament title since 1994. Fuller played every minute of the tournament and said it’s an honor Vanderbilt called on her to help out.

She’ll be wearing “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet.

“I think it’s amazing and incredible. 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,” Fuller said. “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.

COVID-19 protocols and restrictions have left coach Derek Mason with a limited number of specialists available against Missouri. That’s why he reached out to soccer coach Darren Ambrose for some help.

And if she is called upon to assist, Fuller will make history.

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Vanderbilt considers using women’s soccer player Sarah Fuller with kickers in quarantine

“Right now we’re just looking at all options,” Mason said Wednesday on ESPN’s 102.5 The Game. “Sarah, her coach Darren Ambrose and I are extremely close. Obviously, I followed them through the tournament. For us it’s like any week in college football, you’re subject to testing and then based on testing you’ve gotta figure out options of where you go.”

Fuller was a logical choice, according to Mason, and her soccer season ended last week.

“Talking to Sarah, she’s a champ. No pun intended,” Mason said. “Just coming off an SEC championship in soccer and then coming out and just looking at what we do and how we do it. She’s a complete competitor. She’s an option for us and, right now, that’s where we sit.”

The school newspaper reported that she was in full pads and uniform but did not kick Tuesday. She went through walk-throughs with coaches and at least one kicking specialist on the sideline.

Fuller appeared in nine games in goal, making 28 saves for the 8-4 Commodores. She had three saves last weekend in Vanderbilt’s 3-1 upset of top-seeded Arkansas in the SEC title game.

The Commodores have struggled at the position, with kickers making only three of seven field goal attempts for the worst percentage in the SEC. They’ve made all 15 extra-point attempts. Oren Milstein opted not to play because of coronavirus concerns and Javan Rice, a 2018 signee, has not played and Pierson Cooke, a walk-on, has attempted every field goal, missing from 22 and 29 yards. Walk-on Wes Farley, a former high school soccer player, made six PAT attempts.

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