Fuller makes history in college football

Vanderbilt soccer player turned kicker Sarah Fuller made history with a kickoff to open the second half of the Vanderbilt vs. Missouri game last Saturday. 

Fuller is the first female to ever play in a Power 5 football game after being called on to replace a number of specialists who weren’t able to play due to COVID-19 protocols. 

Fuller has been a part of the women’s soccer program for the four years she’s been at Vanderbilt but had only been able to play two games going into her senior season due to various injuries. But despite all her setbacks, Fuller has remained determined and has supported her teammates throughout her years on the team. 

After realizing her kicking potential while working on a long-range distribution drill at soccer practice, Fuller was called upon to become the starting place-kicker for the Commodores. 

“I just want to make it really clear this was never easy, this was never an easy path whatsoever,” Fuller said. “But the fact that I didn’t stop and I didn’t give up, I think it’s huge.”

After suffering from a broken foot, slipped disk and a stress fracture, it would have been all too easy for Fuller to throw in the towel, but she continued to work and eventually earned her spot as the starting goalkeeper four games into her senior season. 

While her commitment to her team and her sport is remarkable, her place on the Commodore football team is what has made hers a household name. 

When Vanderbilt announced Fuller’s spot on the team through social media, the outpouring of support was astounding, but with the support came a fair amount of criticism, with some people calling it a “publicity stunt” or saying that they hope she gets hit to prove that she isn’t tough enough. 

Although she wasn’t used to the spotlight, Fuller handled her newfound popularity gracefully; smiling for the cameras and giving credit to her teammates and coaches. But even with the publicity that has come with her fame, Fuller hasn’t been fazed: She focused on her skills and made history, hitting a successful 27-yard squib kick that permanently left her mark. 

“All I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there because there were times I struggled in sports, 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,” Fuller said. “And I just want to say that literally you can do anything you set your mind to.”

The game itself was important, but Fuller understood the profound impact that her kick had, and wanted to use her spotlight in a positive way. On the back of her helmet, Fuller had a sticker with the words “Play Like a Girl,” the name of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to encourage girls to play sports and gain access to educational STEM programs. 

Seeing Fuller on the field was powerful for many young girls across the country, including me. 

Growing up, I loved football. I always played with the boys on the playground in elementary school, but when it came to organized sports, I was typically encouraged to play something else, like softball or soccer. I ended up in soccer and played all throughout middle and high school, but seeing Fuller dressed out in pads walking onto that field makes me realize that I could have played anything I wanted to. 

My hope is that young girls see a role model like Fuller and realize that they can be just like her; they can play any sport they want, whether it’s male dominated or not. I hope that they see Fuller and mirror her determination and grit before the rest of the world tells them what they can and can’t do.