Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller becomes first woman to play in Power 5

COLUMBIA, MO. >> Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller became the first woman to participate in a Power Five conference football game when she started the second half against Missouri today.

Fuller kicked off the turf with a holder rather than using a tee, and she sent a low kick to the 35-yard line where it was attacked by Missouri’s Mason Pack. Fuller got no chances in the first half when the Tigers opened a 21-0 lead over the Commodores.

She walked straight to the sidelines where she high-fived some of her new teammates and exchanged some elbow bumps. Fuller’s parents watched and cheered from the stands, along with her boyfriend and best friend.

Fuller, a senior goalkeeper for the Vanderbilt soccer team, joined the soccer team this week after helping the Commodores win the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend. COVID-19 protocols and restrictions left Vandy football coach Derek Mason a limited number of specialists available against Missouri. Mason sought help from football coach Darren Ambrose.

Fuller agreed to try football and rehearsed with the winless Commodores before traveling to Missouri. She wore “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet. She wore No. 32 on Saturday, the same as her number while playing football.

After her kick-off, the reaction poured in on social media as Fuller, the number 2 trending topic on Twitter, followed by Vandy. Her soccer team wrote on Twitter: “Glass. Everywhere.”

As in glass ceiling.

Pat McAfee, former NFL punt, discussed Fuller’s squib kick, noting that the ball didn’t go out of bounds, didn’t give up touchdown without a chance of a return to set up the defense.

“Congratulations to (at) SarahFuller – 27 for being THE FIRST WOMAN EVER to kick off a POWER 5 GAME,” McAfee wrote. “Incredibly rare to be the ‘first person ever to do something’ these days … this is really cool.”

Not a single woman had appeared in a SEC football game or for a Power Five team. Liz Heaston became the first woman to score with two extra points for Willamette in NAIA on October 18, 1997.

Katie Hnida was the first woman to score at the Football Bowl Subdivision level with two extra points for New Mexico on August 30, 2003.

April Goss was 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 September 13, 2003.

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