(Reuters) - Sarah Fuller hopes to inspire young female athletes to follow their dreams after becoming the first woman to play in a Power 5 conference football match when she delivered the opening kick of the second half for Vanderbilt against Missouri Tigers on Saturday.
Fuller, a goalkeeper for Vanderbilt University women’s soccer team, took the field for the Commodores men’s football team as place kicker in the third quarter and sent a low kick to the 35-yard line, carving her name in American sports history.
“I haven’t taken a second to soak it all in, really. I think it’s incredible that I am able to do this,” Fuller said. “All I want to is be a good influence to the young girls. There were times that I struggled in sports but I am thankful I stuck with it.
“I just want to say, literally, you can do anything you set your mind to – that’s the No. 1 thing.”
Fuller did not get an opportunity to kick an extra point or field goal as Vanderbilt’s offense sputtered en route to a 41-0 defeat.
Fuller, who made the trip with the men’s team to Missouri after several members of the squad were put in quarantine due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, said she was overwhelmed by the response she had received on social media.
“When I’m in the moment and in person and doing all this stuff, it feels normal and it feels right,” Fuller added. “The social media aspect has just gone way more than I ever thought. It’s insane.”
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason tipped his hat to Fuller.
“She wasn’t trying to set some landmark event. She was just trying to help really where she could,” Mason said.
No woman had appeared in an SEC game or the Power 5, a group of college football’s largest conferences. Liz Heaston in 1997 became the first woman to play and score in a college football game when she kicked two extra points in Willamette University’s 27-0 win over Linfield College.
Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel
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