Sarah Fuller: “Let’s Make History”

First female football player in the Power 5 makes her debut

     On November 28, a helmet, bobbing up and down, made its way onto the football field at Vanderbilt University reading: “Play Like A Girl.” She confidently ran out going right to her position as kicker. Moments later, she took a running start, and then her skilled foot collided with the football shooting it as far as possible while simultaneously kicking down barriers for women in sports. Sarah Fuller, a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt University’s female soccer team, became the first woman to play in the Power 5 conferences (other women have played college football, but not in the five major conferences.) The Power 5 conference is made up of the five major football conferences: Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference. When she completed a kickoff to start the second half of the game, she sealed her name in history forever. 

     Fuller is a senior and as she was on her way home to Wylie, Texas for Thanksgiving, her assistant soccer coach gave her a call. He told her that she was being offered a spot to be the kicker for Vanderbilt’s football team. Without hesitation, Fuller jumped right in and gave it her all. Fuller’s helmet quote – “Play Like A Girl” – references a non-profit she supports which helps women in sports and STEM. While Vanderbilt lost, it was a huge win for all women across the country.

     Since this was the first time a woman has played in a major college football game, there was a lot of backlash directed at Coach Derek Mason saying he only put Fuller in to become famous and make the headlines. In an interview following the loss, Coach Mason, when asked if Fuller was put in just to make headlines, commented, “Listen, I’m not about making statements. This was out of necessity.” Mason was completely truthful, as coronavirus quarantines had taken out all his kickers. Fuller was his best option and in the process Mason made history, but in reality, it was just a byproduct of COVID-19.

     When ESPN reporter Eliza Orlins asked Fuller in a post-game interview what she hopes was conveyed through her involvement, 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 and if you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things.” Sarah Fuller indisputably became an inspiration to all young girls out there who hope to follow in her footsteps.

     While this event was a completely positive one, Facebook users had some negative things to comment under Sports Center’s post announcement of Sarah Fuller as the kicker. One read, “I hope she made the team some cookies too!” Another read, “Lol. Knock her cleats off.” These sexist comments went ignored by Fuller as she continued to persevere and show everybody exactly what she’s made of. Fuller posted on Instagram a day before the game and a comment underneath read, “So proud. My 9-year-old daughter is telling me how she argued with a boy at school that a girl could play football and he kept saying no… thank you for shattering that ceiling for her and all the girls like her looking up to you today!” Fuller inspired women and girls across the country to start breaking down the barriers standing in their way by showing that anything is possible. While there was some misogynistic backlash, the beauty of this moment will never be forgotten and neither will Fuller. On November 28, Sarah Fuller kicked a football into the world stage, shattering the glass ceiling for women in football.