Vanderbilt University senior Sarah Fuller made history as the first woman to play in a Power Five football game when the Commodores faced the Tigers of the University of Missouri on Saturday.
Fuller, a soccer player by training, joined the game after halftime as Vanderbilt's placekicker following absences from players who were exposed to Covid-19.
The 21-year-old from Texas had recently finished soccer season as her team’s starting goalkeeper, helping the Commodores win their first SEC title in women’s soccer since 1994.
She acknowledged the magnitude of the moment earlier this week, saying 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 organization Play Like a Girl, which aims to expose girls to opportunities in sports and in STEM-related educational and professional fields.
Missouri won the game 41-0, leaving the Commodores 0-8 for the season. But the Nashville institution missed no opportunity to highlight the historic moment. Women have taken to the field for college football teams in the past, but never for such a high-profile team in a top conference.
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"Sarah Fuller. Remember the name," the Vanderbilt Football team tweeted alongside a photo of Fuller wearing her "Play like a girl" helmet.
After the game, Fuller told the SEC Network that she wasn't nervous when she stepped on the field Saturday to make history.
"Honestly, I was just really calm. The SEC championship was more stressful," she said between giggles. "But I was very excited to step out on the field and do my thing."
"I represent the little girls out there who wanted to do this or have thought about playing football or any sport, really," she said. "I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to, you really can. If you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things."