The Vanderbilt University football team made history this weekend by enlisting the athletic prowess of one its star soccer players for their own sport … and this time it’s not a man.
Sarah Fuller took the field Saturday in Vandy’s NCAA match against the Missouri Tigers — where she suited up and kicked off to the opposing team in the second half … and etching her name in the record books while doing so.
She delivered an effective onside kick to the Tigers, and then jogged off the field to lots of applause. Her play marks the first time a female has played in a Power 5 college football game … which is a huge deal. The first woman to play the game ever at the college level was Liz Heaston in 1997 … but that wasn’t NCAA.
In 2001, Ashley Martin did the honors there … but as far as Power 5 (the most competitive tier of collegiate football), Sarah is the first to ever do it — an historic feat.
Oct. 18, 1997: Liz Heaston, who kicked two extra points for NAIA DII Willamette University, becomes the first woman to play in a college football game.
Now, as for how this came to be … word is a few players on Vanderbilt’s squad — including some kickers — are out right now due to COVID-19, so they were in need of some emergency reinforcements from other athletic departments on campus.
Sarah’s actually the goalkeeper for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team, which just won the SEC championship. The Vanderbilt football coach reportedly was considering different options amid his team being down a handful of guys, and thought of Sarah because of how good she was with the soccer ball. One thing led to another, and they had her practice with a football. Obviously, she was a fit.
Some folks — including certain media personalities — criticized the move and questioned Vandy’s motives for recruiting a female soccer player instead of a guy … wondering if it was all for publicity and more for PR than actual merit.
Of course, those people are getting dragged through the coals, with many replying … is it possible that she was the most qualified to play in this spot? Yes, yes it is.