American football: Stand-in female kicker for Vanderbilt University makes college breakthrough

Vanderbilt Commodores kicker Sarah Fuller (32) before the game against the Missouri Tigers on Nov 28, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Vanderbilt University kicker Sarah Fuller made American collegiate football history on Saturday (Nov 28) 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," she said.

Because Vanderbilt's offensive unit sputtered, her contribution was limited to a single play - the second-half kick-off. 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.

Although other women have kicked previously for college teams, Fuller, whose helmet had the message "Play like a girl" on the back, was the first woman to play for a major college football programme.

"Honestly, it's just so exciting," she 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."

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