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"All I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there," Sarah Fuller said

By Claudia Harmata
November 30, 2020 04:26 PM
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Sarah Fuller

Sarah Fuller is still trying to comprehend her impact on the sports world.

Over the weekend, the Vanderbilt kicker became the first woman to play in a Power 5 regular-season college football game, making her debut during the second half of Saturday's game against Missouri.

"Honestly, I haven't taken a second to soak it all in," Fuller told ESPN.

Looking back on how a simple exercise during soccer practice last spring completely changed her life, Fuller added that the experience has been "pretty cool."

At the time, Vanderbilt's assistant soccer coach, Kelly Keelan, had taken Fuller and Sophie Guilmette — the team's goalkeepers — and struck up a friendly competition between them to shoot at the football team's makeshift field goal.

Every time they made a kick, the athletes were instructed to step back five yards until they could no longer hit the target. Fuller made it all the way back to the 45-yard line.

"All I want to do is be a good influence to the young girls out there because there were times I struggled in sports, but I'm so thankful that I stuck with it and it's given me so many opportunities and I've met so many amazing people through sports," she told the outlet.

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Ahead of Saturday's game, Fuller shared a post on Instagram that she captioned: "Let’s make history." During the game, she also decked out her new football helmet with a sticker that read, "Play Like a Girl."

Only two women have played football in the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA before Fuller, which is the highest level of collegiate football.

In 2003, University of New Mexico player Katie Hnida became the first woman to score at the FBS level, according to ESPN. Kicker April Goss of Kent State became the second woman to earn the distinction in 2015.

Fuller's journey in joining these women was not an easy one. "I just want to make it really clear this was never easy, this was never an easy path whatsoever," she said. "But the fact that I didn't stop and I didn't give up, I think it's huge."

Speaking to ESPN, Fuller detailed the many injuries and hurdles she's had to overcome over the course of the last four years while playing soccer at Vanderbilt — including a broken foot, back injury, stress fracture in her other foot, and failing the team's fitness tests.

"That was the thing I admired about her," Vanderbilt head soccer coach Darren Ambrose told ESPN. "Because that could have gone a lot of ways. ... That's the piece about her — the tenacity and the determination and the grit she's shown to get to where she did."

Before joining the Tennessee school's football team, Fuller also helped lead the soccer team to its first SEC Tournament title since 1994.

"I just want to say that literally, you can do anything you set your mind to," Fuller said.