On November 28th, the Vanderbilt football team suited up to compete against the University of Missouri in a Power Five conference game. Vanderbilt was expected to get demolished, yet this game was one of the most anticipated in the season– All because of number. 32, Sarah Fuller.
Sarah Fuller is a Vanderbilt senior originally from Wylie, Texas. She has played four seasons with Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team. This past season she started as keeper and assisted the team in winning their first SEC title since 1994.
After winning the title Fuller assumed her collegiate athletic career was over. However, just a few days after the win she got a call from the women’s soccer associate head coach asking if she’d be willing to help the football team.
The football team was in trouble do to positive COVID-19 cases. They needed help in special teams positions, and Fuller was the perfect fit. She was already following the athletic departments COVID-19 testing protocol and her coaches knew she could get the job done.
The same day Fuller received the call, she joined the rest of the team on the field to prepare for the game against Missouri.
“She’s really good with a soccer ball, seems like she’s pretty good with a football, too.” Vanderbilt Football Head Coach Derek Mason said to reporters proceeding the teams first practice with Fuller.
Only a few days later she took to the field, ready to fill in where needed. She waited patiently on the sidelines and cheered on her new team-mates, when finally, they required her help in the second half.
“Honestly I was just really calm,” Fuller said on SEC Network, “The SEC (soccer) championship was more stressful if I’m going to be honest.”
Fuller started by using squib kick, a short and low kick that usually causes the ball to bounce around on the ground before it can be picked up by a member of the receiving team. Although there was controversy on whether the kick was purposeful, Head Coach Derek Mason has said he asked her to do a squib kick because he knew she was familiar with delivering low kicks from soccer.
Fuller didn’t receive another opprotunity to go in that game due to the Vanderbilt Commodores being obliterated by the Missouri Tigers. That didn’t matter, though, by stepping on the field Fuller made history as the first woman to play in a Power Five college football game.
She joined Katie Hinda and April Goss as the third woman to play in the NCAA Division 1 Football Subdivision.
On December 12, Fuller made history again. She stepped on the field with only a minute to go in the first quarter. Vanderbilt was down by one to Tennessee and needed Fuller to succeed in order to go into the second quarter tied.
Vanderbilt interim head coach made the decision to put Fuller in. “We get in the game and she was highly accurate with it in that range, the extra points and inside the 10, so she was going to get those,” Fitch said. “The other kickers were going to get it further back.”
Fuller successfully made her kick, thus, she became the first woman to score in a Power-5 college football game.
“This whole time has been if I can do it, if I’m good enough to do it,” Fuller said after the game to ESPN “It wasn’t if I was a girl or not. So that’s something I’ve really appreciated. At the end of the day, they treated me like an athlete and that’s the best I could ask for.”
She was treated like an athlete. An athlete who was thrown into a situation and figured out how to succeed in that situation. Fuller had only days to do what some football players practice for years to succeed in. She was in the right place at the right time and when the coaches looked for an alternate, they found her. It was never about her being a girl it was about her being an athlete. They looked for the best person in order to succeed and that person just happened to be Sarah Fuller.