Female kicker makes college American football breakthrough

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Vanderbilt University coach Derek Mason, left, said kicker Sarah Fuller executed her kickoff exactly as planned for the Connodores in her historic appearance Saturday in the team's 41-0 loss to Missouri

Vanderbilt University kicker Sarah Fuller made collegiate American football history Saturday as the first woman to play in a "Power Five" contest in the Commodores' 41-0 loss to Missouri.

Fuller, goalkeeper for the school's Southeastern Conference champion women's soccer squad, was given the chance to play on the gridiron after Covid-19 testing left Vanderbilt without a kicker.

"I was really excited to step out on the field and do my thing," Fuller said.

Because Vanderbilt's offensive unit sputtered, her contribution was limited to a single play -- the second-half kickoff. She punched the ball to the Missouri 35-yard line, a tricky low offering compared to the usual deeper kicks, where the Tigers fell upon it.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said she executed the kick exactly as planned.

Fuller, whose helmet had the message "Play like a girl" on the back, felt the breakthrough moment, as the first woman to play for a major college football program, although other women have kicked previously for college teams at lower levels.

"Honestly, it's just so exciting," Fuller said. "The fact that I can represent the little girls out there who wanted to do this -- or thought about playing football or any sport, really -- and it encourages them to be able to step out and do something big like this, it's so awesome."

Fuller had a 7-2 record for the Commodores women's soccer squad and was pleased to send a message to young girls who might emulate her example in whatever field they might choose.

"I just want to tell all the girls out there -- you can do anything you set your mind to," Fuller said. "You really can. If you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things."