Vanderbilt Soccer Goalie Becomes A Football Kicker

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a woman made history on the field at Vanderbilt University, the football field that is. Sarah Fuller, a star goalie for the Women’s Soccer team, broke age old barriers when she suited up for Vanderbilt’s game against Missouri as the football team’s kicker. With one kick, Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game.

As a goalie on Vanderbilt’s Women’s Soccer team, Fuller guarded the net and led the team to win its first SEC (Southeastern Conference) title since 1994 after a 3-1 victory in her senior season. Once her senior soccer season ended, Fuller’s peers expected her athletic career to draw to a close. However, Vanderbilt Football’s entire kicking squad went into quarantine shortly before the Thanksgiving weekend football game, after one kicker came into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. When Fuller heard the news, she immediately jumped at the chance to kick for the team.

Missouri ultimately shut Vanderbilt out by 41 points, so Fuller never had the opportunity to knock in a field goal, but the second half did start with her kick. Since the kick-off was not “picture perfect,” many viewers were unimpressed before learning the situation’s full background—especially if they just watched the highlight clip. In reality, Vanderbilt could not risk a returnable kick, as they were already down by twenty-one points coming out of halftime. The wisest thing to do was to place it on a trajectory that would require Missouri to land on the ball in order to claim possession—which is just what Fuller did.

On her helmet, Fuller sported the phrase “Play Like A Girl,” and as the press declares, “And Play Like A Girl She Did.” Her message to young girls highlighted the magnitude of what she accomplished, “I just wanted to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to”. Sporting the number thirty-two, the same number on her soccer jersey, she did just that and more. Fuller showed the world that female athletes are not bound to any rule or regulation set by a male-run organization, system, or team. Her kick was bigger than the sport itself. 

Although she was unable to score a field goal—the Vanderbilt offense never got into reasonable range—Fuller states that in one of the few remaining games left that she would “love to get out there and score.”

A couple weeks later, Fuller got her chance to score. She became the first woman in a Power-5 football game to do so. In a loss to Tennessee, two extra-points went through the uprights sealing the deal. The first came with just under two minutes left in the first quarter. Fuller received the ball from the referee after reaching the sidelines. Continuing to inspire and impress, Fuller remarked at the end of the game that, “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.”

Sarah Fuller proved that female athletes are more than capable of performing on a field full of men, and hopefully her message is a stepping stone for others to follow in her footsteps—and maybe one day make it all the way to the NFL. Fuller is an inspiration to women across the country, as she finally brought the seemingly unreachable into reach.