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Industry Cheers as Sarah Fuller Makes College Football History

Sports fans, industry insiders rally around 'Play Like a Girl' message

Sarah Fuller Vanderbilt Football
Courtesy of Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University senior Sarah Fuller made sports history today after taking the field as a placekicker for the football team in its game against the University of Missouri.

Fuller’s big moment came at the start of the second half when delivered what turned out to be a squib kick to start the play and hopefully improve Vanderbilt’s fortunes in the contest that stood at 21-0 at halftime.

“HISTORY MADE,” the SEC Network asserted in a tweet moments after Fuller’s momentous kick came shortly before 2 p.m. ET.

Fuller was tapped to suit up with the team earlier this week after other members of Vanderbilt’s Commodores were benched because of possible exposure to COVID-19. The 21-year-old from Texas is a star soccer player who last week helped lead Vanderbilt to triumph in the SEC’s women’s soccer tournament. The prospect of Fuller blazing a trail on the gridiron drew cheers before Saturday’s game, scheduled to begin at noon ET in Columbia, Mo., from college football fans, sports and media industry leaders.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King noted the milestone in a tweet and added: “Women belong in the game!”

Fuller confirmed with a tweet on Friday that she had been tapped to practice with the Commodores. She acknowledged the magnitude of the moment by noting that she will play with the slogan “Play like a girl” on the back of her helmet. Fuller said the decision was a nod to the nonprofit org I Play Like a Girl, which aims to expose girls to opportunities in sports and in STEM-related educational and professional fields.

According to the Tennessean, Fuller stands six-foot-two and hails from Wylie, Texas. She’s a two-time SEC champion who played goalkeeper for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team.

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt head football coach, told ESPN on Saturday that “sometimes you just gotta think outside of the box” when faced with unexpected challenges. Mason said that after his team was rocked by COVID-19 exposure, he reached out to Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer coach, Darren Ambrose, who suggested Fuller.

“Her nickname is ‘Champ,’ ” Mason noted to ESPN. “She was fearless. She plays football the way she plays soccer.”

Vanderbilt’s Commodores are 0-7 for the season. But the Nashville institution missed no opportunity to highlight the history that is likely to be made. Women have taken in the field for college football teams in the past, but never for such a high-profile team in a top conference like the SEC.