Here is a look at Vanderbilt football placekicker Sarah Fuller practicing. Fuller helped Vanderbilt women’s soccer win the SEC tournament this fall.
Sarah Fuller gave a passionate halftime speech to her Vanderbilt team — her football team, that is — on Saturday.
It was an eyebrow-raising revelation on a day that featured plenty of hyperbole.
Fuller’s boldness on a team she joined five days ago was incredible enough. That she spoke up with the historic distinction of becoming the first woman to play in a Power Five college football game put it over the top.
ESTES: History found Vanderbilt football’s Sarah Fuller, and it turns out she was perfect for it | Estes
Vanderbilt was trailing 21-0 to Missouri in a lackluster performance.
Fuller, a Vanderbilt goalkeeper who won the SEC women’s soccer tournament title last Sunday, didn’t like the body language and lack of enthusiasm of her new football teammates.
And her voice and competitive spirit simply weren’t going to be silenced by unfamiliarity.
“I just walked in and asked a few people if I could talk, and they said, ‘Yeah, go ahead.’ And then I got everybody’s attention,” Fuller said. “(I told them that) we need to cheer each other on because that’s the only way I’ve seen it work.
“I just used my goalkeeper voice in the (football) locker room.”
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The halftime speech didn’t work. Vanderbilt lost 41-0 in Columbia, Missouri. But Fuller made an impression on the Commodores and, well, countless people from civil rights icon Billie Jean King to soccer superstar Carli Lloyd to Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn.
But more than just women paid attention. Before the game, Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who has four daughters, whispered to the opposing kicker that he thought her participation was incredible.
“Girl dads have come up to me and said, ‘You are inspiring my girls. I want them to know they can do anything, and you are proving that point,’” Fuller said. “That’s the coolest thing.”
Derek Mason wanted best kicker, not just a social statement
So why did Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason add Fuller to the team?
He said it wasn’t a publicity stunt. It was out of necessity. Fuller’s strong leg and availability made her the best option for a team that lost its other kickers due to COVID-19 contact tracing.
But Mason, who has two daughters, didn’t miss the significance of Fuller’s feat.
“There are moments in time that no one can really forecast,” Mason said. “I think there was something bigger at work here.”
Fuller finally took the field, wearing No. 32 with “Play Like a Girl” on the back of her helmet. She broke the barrier by squibbing the