Sarah Fuller Makes History Playing for Vanderbilt Men’s Football


Football player

On November 28th, Sarah Fuller, Senior Goalkeeper for Vanderbilt University’s women’s soccer team, kicked for Vanderbilt’s men’s football team against the University of Missouri. Fuller became the first woman to play in a Power 5 college football game with her opening kickoff in the second half. 

Fuller also led the Vanderbilt women’s soccer team to a Southeastern Conference championship on November 22nd, the program’s first title since 1994. Fuller finished with three saves in a 3-1 victory over Arkansas in the championship game.

Despite the historic impact of her presence on a men’s team, former Vanderbilt head football coach Derek Mason said his choice was not a public statement. It was a matter of necessity, as all other Vanderbilt kickers were not available due to Covid-19 precautions. 

Mason was fired on November 29th, according to a tweet from national college football reporter Brandon Marcello. Currently, Vanderbilt University football has a record of 0-8 nearing the end of their season. 

Fuller acknowledged that her playing for the team was quite a social statement, even if that was not the intention. I’m also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do and I want to help the team out… Placing the historical aspect aside just helps me focus in on what I need to do,” she said. In fact, Fuller was so focused that she had to “mute the notifications on her phone this week to stay focused.”

Fuller took the field this Saturday with a sticker on her helmet reading “Play Like a Girl.” Despite being the only woman on the team, she decided to make an announcement at halftime, while the team was losing 21-0, to boost her teammates’ attitudes. She used her “goalkeeper voice” to condemn their negative body language and promote a competitive, positive spirit. “We need to cheer each other on because that’s the only way I’ve seen [teams] work,” she said

Fuller’s low kick flew about thirty yards to the 35 yard line, where it was stopped by Missouri. Mason, in a postgame press conference, noted: “That was designed… we tried to go with the most natural kicks in her arsenal.” He did not want to “over-coach her,” especially after her only having practiced football for one week, but rather let her do “what felt comfortable to her.” 

During her post-game interview after the 41-0 loss, Fuller said: “The fact that I can represent all the girls out there… and encourage them to be able to step out and do something but like this, it’s awesome.”

Fuller hopes to continue her play with the Vanderbilt football team. “I would love to get out there and score a field goal, I would love to go out there and get an extra point and everything. I would be happy to if they’ll have me. I love the team,” she said. Mason adds that the team “would love to have her,” and her future involvement is up to her. Backup QB Mike Wright agrees, tweeting: “Trust me when I say no one on the team is offended nor upset. We are excited Sarah is part of our team.”

Wright added in the postgame conference: “you can take a leader out of her sport, but at the end of the day, she’s still a leader.”

Looking forward, Mason believes that “there is something bigger at work here… I’ve always believed that women are capable of doing fantastic things.” Though he acknowledges that football is a sport considered to be male-dominated, women are capable of making history in the sport as well. 

Fuller is not the first woman to play in a D1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) game — Katie Hnida kicked for New Mexico in 2003, and April Goss kicked for Kent State in 2015.