Vanderbilt University senior Sarah Fuller makes college football history as kicker

Vanderbilt University senior Sarah Fuller made history as the first woman to play in a Power 5 football game when the Commodores faced the Tigers of Missouri University on Saturday afternoon.

Fuller, a soccer player by training, joined the game after halftime as Vanderbilt’s placekicker following absences from players who were exposed to Covid-19.

The 21-year-old player from Texas had recently finished soccer season as her team’s starting goalkeeper, helping the Commodores win their first SEC title in women’s soccer since 1994.

She acknowledged the magnitude of the moment earlier this week, saying she will play with the slogan “Play like a girl” on the back of her helmet. Fuller said the decision was a nod to the nonprofit organization I Play Like a Girl, which aims to expose girls to opportunities in sports and in STEM-related educational and professional fields.

The Commodores are 0-7 for the season. But the Nashville institution missed no opportunity to highlight the historic moment. Women have taken to the field for college football teams in the past, but never for such a high-profile team in a top conference.

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“Sarah Fuller. Remember the name,” the Vanderbilt Football team tweeted alongside a photo of Fuller wearing her “Play like a girl” helmet.

Variety contributed.

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Watch Sarah Fuller kick off for Vanderbilt and make college football history

At the start of the third quarter of the Vanderbilt-Missouri game Saturday, Sarah Fuller made college football history. By taking the field for the opening second-half kickoff for the Commodores, Fuller became the first woman to play in an SEC and Power 5 game.

a person standing on a baseball field: USA TODAY

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Winless Vanderbilt has struggled with kicking this season. Some of the team’s specialists were not available to play because of COVID-19 protocols, so it turned to Fuller, a 6-foot-2 Wylie, Texas native and senior goalkeeper on Vanderbilt’s soccer team, which finished its season last Sunday with its first SEC Tournament title since 1994. And not long after that, Fuller was with the football team practicing kicking through the uprights this week.

Related: 5 things to know about Sarah Fuller

And, as The Tennessean‘s Adam Sparks reported Saturday, Fuller was the only kicker to travel with Vanderbilt for the Missouri game, joining specialists punter/holder Harrison Smith and long snapper Wesley Schelling.

So when it was time for the second-half kickoff, Fuller stepped on the field for a 30-yard kick to Missouri’s 35-yard line.

Prior to Vanderbilt’s road game against Missouri, Commodores head coach Derek Mason said Fuller was an option this weekend because “she’s got a strong leg.” Mason also told ESPN 102.5 The Game this week:

“For us, talking to Sarah, she’s a champ, and no pun intended. Just coming off an SEC championship in soccer and then coming out and just looking at what we do and how we do it, and she’s a complete competitor. She’s an option for us, so right now, that’s where we sit.”

Vanderbilt struggled in the first half to get into Missouri territory — forget about field goal range — so Fuller didn’t have a chance to play. But after halftime with the Tigers leading the Commodores, 21-0, Mason turned to the goalkeeper turned football kicker.

Although Fuller is the first woman to play in a Power 5 game, she’s not the first to play in college football. Women are still given few opportunities to play, but several women helped pave the way for this moment, including Liz Heaston, the first woman to score in a college football game (Willamette, 1997), and Katie Hnida, the first woman to score at the FBS level (New Mexico, 2003).


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Sarah Fuller to dress for Vanderbilt, may be first woman to play college football game at Power Five level

Vanderbilt women’s soccer player Sarah Fuller may take snaps on Saturday when for the Commodores face Missouri. Coach Derek Mason confirmed Wednesday during his SEC teleconference that Fuller, Vanderbilt’s goalkeeper, is “an option” for his team due to the shortage of specialists this week. That’s due to more COVID-19 related quarantines, which have wreaked havoc on Vanderbilt’s depth chart all season.

The program announced on its website late this week that Fuller will indeed dress in uniform and be on the sidelines as part of the travel roster.

“Sarah is part of our women’s soccer SEC championship team. Obviously they just played in the finals on Sunday. For us finding out a couple things about maybe some of our specialists, I reached out to Darren Ambrose — me and Darren are extremely close. Our teams are close, to be honest. Just wanted to see how Sarah would actually work as an option,” Mason said earlier this week. “I had her out, had a chance to look at what she can do with the football. She’s really good with the soccer ball, seems to be really good with the football. We’ll see. She’s an option. we’ll keep all our options open. We’ll see what she can do on Saturday if given the opportunity.”

The university’s student newspaper, the Vanderbilt Hustler, reported Tuesday that Fuller had been practicing with the team. 

“I’ve seen her kick in practice. And I saw her off the team kick a couple field goals. I just wanted to see how strong her leg was. I can tell you, she has a strong leg. We’ll see what that yields in terms of distances and where we’re at. I’m not even talking about that now,” Mason said. “It’s day to day to go evaluate where she is. Like I said, Sarah is an option. she seems to be a pretty good option. We’ll see what that looks like on Saturday.”

Vanderbilt is 3 of 7 on field goal attempts this season. The Commodores (0-7) will be looking for their first win of the season.

Should Fuller attempt a kick this weekend, she will be the first woman to play a snap in a Power Five college football game.

She would also be on a short list of women who have played in an FBS game. Former New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida was the first female player to score points in an FBS game when she kicked two extra points for the Lobos in 2003. Kent State kicker April Goss became the second when she kicked an extra point against Delaware State in 2015.

Four other women — Willamette’s Liz Heaton, Jacksonville State’s Ashley Martin, West Alabama’s Tonya Butler and Lebanon Valley’s Brittany Ryan have also kicked in college football games at various levels ranging from NAIA to FCS. Heaton became the first woman to score in a college football game in 1997.


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Vanderbilt University soccer star Sarah Fuller will kick for Commodores football team

Women´s soccer player Sarah Fuller will don a football uniform Saturday for Vanderbilt and is poised to become the first woman to play in a Power 5 game when the Commodores visit Missouri.  

Vanderbilt is set to face off against Missouri in an SEC clash on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, Missouri.  

If Fuller plays, as expected, she will become the first female to play in a Power 5 conference college football game. 

She’ll be wearing ‘Play Like A Girl’ on the back of her helmet. 

The Power 5 conferences are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, the biggest conferences in Division I intercollegiate athletics.

No woman has appeared in an Southeastern Conference football game or for any Power 5 gridiron team. 

Fuller posted the news on Twitter herself, writing ‘Let’s make history.’ 

Fuller is a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt’s soccer team, which recently won the SEC Championship.

The Commodores were initially going to play Tennessee at home this Saturday before the coronavirus forced scheduling changes across the conference.

Sarah Fuller has a chance to make college football history when she suits up on Saturday

Sarah Fuller has a chance to make college football history when she suits up on Saturday

Fuller could become the first female player to compete in a Power 5 football game

Fuller could become the first female player to compete in a Power 5 football game

Previous female players have competed at the FBS level, but not for the elite conferences

Previous female players have competed at the FBS level, but not for the elite conferences

Vanderbilt is scheduled to play against Missouri on the road on Saturday afternoon. Pictured: Dudley Field at Vanderbilt Stadium

Vanderbilt is scheduled to play against Missouri on the road on Saturday afternoon. Pictured: Dudley Field at Vanderbilt Stadium

Fuller started nine games for the Vanderbilt soccer team this season, during which the team posted a 7-2-0 record. She didn’t allow a goal in three of those starts.

Fuller also started all four games during the SEC Tournament, which concluded with a 3-1 win over the top-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday.

Rather than take a break after the end of an exciting season, Fuller went right to work with the football team, which has been dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in their special teams unit according to ESPN.

‘This is super deserving for her,’ Wylie High School girls’ soccer coach Chris Bezner said to The Athletic. ‘She’s always had the grit and perseverance.’

‘I’d be proud if this works out,’ said Fuller’s soccer coach, Darren Ambrose. ‘The bravery and courage required to do this are immense.’

Vanderbilt has had a very challenging season on the gridiron, losing all seven of their games so far this season.

Kicking itself has also been a challenge for the Commodores, with junior Pierson Cooke making three of his seven attempts on the year.

Fuller previously competed for Vanderbilt's women's soccer team, which won an SEC title less than a week ago

Fuller previously competed for Vanderbilt’s women’s soccer team, which won an SEC title less than a week ago

'I'd be proud if this works out,' said Fuller's soccer coach, Darren Ambrose. Pictured: Fuller at a concert

‘I’d be proud if this works out,’ said Fuller’s soccer coach, Darren Ambrose. Pictured: Fuller at a concert

The level Fuller would be kicking at is unprecedented, but it would not be the first time a female has kicked in a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) game.

In 2003, Katie Hnida became the first female to score in an FBS game when she converted two extra points with

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Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt odds, line: 2020 college football picks, Week 9 predictions from proven model

A SEC battle is on tap between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Ole Miss Rebels at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday at Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt is 0-3 overall and 0-2 at home, while Ole Miss is 1-4 overall and 1-1 on the road. Ole Miss enters Saturday’s SEC showdown with a 1-7 record in its last eight games on the road. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has lost seven consecutive SEC games. 

The Rebels are favored by 17.5-points in the latest Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss odds from William Hill, and the over-under is set at 64. Before entering any Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt picks, you’ll want to see the college football predictions from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every FBS college football game 10,000 times. Over the past four-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated a stunning profit of nearly $4,000 for $100 players on its top-rated college football picks  against the spread. It is a sizzling 29-19 on top-rated picks through eight weeks of the 2020 college football season, returning nearly $500 in profit already. Anyone who has followed it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss. You can head to SportsLine to see its picks. Here are several college football odds for Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss:

  • Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss spread: Ole Miss -17.5
  • Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss over-under: 64 points
  • Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss money line: Vanderbilt +525, Ole Miss -750

What you need to know about Vanderbilt

The Commodores found themselves the reluctant recipients of an unfortunate 41-7 punch to the gut against the South Carolina Gamecocks in their last outing. Vanderbilt was down 27-7 at the end of the third quarter, which was just too much to recover from. Quarterback Ken Seals wasn’t much of a difference maker for Vanderbilt and passed for only 148 yards on 24 attempts.

Vanderbilt enters Saturday’s clash with a 1-7 record in its last eight games. However, the Commodores have had success at home against the Rebels, covering the spread in six of their last eight meetings against Ole Miss in Nashville. 

What you need to know about Ole Miss

Ole Miss came within a touchdown against the Auburn Tigers on Saturday, but the Rebels wound up with a 35-28 loss. QB Matt Corral put forth a good effort for the losing side as he passed for one TD and 154 yards on 27 attempts, in addition to rushing for two TDs and 88 yards. For the season, Corral has thrown for 1,434 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also carried the ball 61 times for 258 yards and two scores. 

The Rebels feature one of the nation’s most potent offenses. In fact, Ole Miss is averaging 521.0 yards per game this season, which ranks ninth in the country. In addition, the Rebels are averaging 34.8 points per game in 2020. 

How to make Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss picks

The model has simulated Vanderbilt vs.

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How Vanderbilt is successfully handling ‘the biggest crisis higher education’ has ever faced

2020 has been a crapshoot for colleges amid the coronavirus pandemic, with few bright spots amid community outbreaks in university towns and sharp declines in enrollment.


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The pandemic is “the biggest crisis that the world has faced since the Second World War, and it’s probably the biggest crisis higher education has faced ever,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, who has overseen the Nashville school’s largely successful handling of reopening campus for the fall semester, told Yahoo Finance in a wide-ranging interview. “It will be a period of disruption and tremendous volatility.”

Vanderbilt has managed to avoid coronavirus transmission during the fall semester. Between September 28 and October 4, only 29 of the 6,733 tested for COVID-19 were positive — a 0.43% positivity rate. That’s in stark contrast to many other schools that have been reporting thousands of cases and high positivity rates.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Elliot Choy, a Vanderbilt student who has documented his life on campus through YouTube, told Yahoo Finance. “Part of it is what the campus has set in place in terms of policies, in terms of guidelines and rules, but also, the students have to take it pretty seriously.” 

The last day of in-person learning at Vanderbilt is November 20, after which online instruction commences. 

a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a window: Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. (Photo: Vanderbilt)

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Vanderbilt Chancellor Daniel Diermeier. (Photo: Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt’s playbook

Diermeier, who used to work at the University of Chicago, stepped into this role in December of last year and happens to be a crisis management expert.

Vanderbilt’s strategy against coronavirus transmission primarily involves working with public health authorities, mandating social hygiene guidelines, testing students weekly, “urgent” emails if students miss an appointment, and contact tracing when an infection is identified.

While hygiene, testing, and tracing is a universally known playbook against he virus, the execution of that plan requires resources in addition to determination and organization.

“Financially, Vanderbilt is one of the strongest universities in the country,” Robert Kelchen, associate professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, told Yahoo Finance. “I don’t spend any time worrying about them.”

a person throwing a frisbee in front of a building: Students crossing the lawn in front of the Faye and Joe Wyatt Center for Education on the campus of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., September 18, 2018. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Harrison McClary)

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Students crossing the lawn in front of the Faye and Joe Wyatt Center for Education on the campus of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S., September 18, 2018. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Harrison McClary)

About 50% of Vanderbilt students are living on campus for the fall, 35% off campus, and 15% remote. The school owns a hotel that it used to quarantine students, and the university’s nursing school helps with testing and tracing.  

“We were basically able to accommodate all first year students that wanted to live in single rooms,” Diermeier noted.

He also said that the most crucial lesson came from another private college: Notre Dame.

“Like us, and like a few other private universities, they were very committed to bringing the students back and having in-person education,” Diermeier said. But “because they were earlier than everybody else in some sense, you could learn from them — that all

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