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Sarah Fuller Becomes First Woman To Play Major American College Football Conference Game

V
anderbilt University women’s soccer goalkeeper, Sarah Fuller, has become the first woman to play in a major conference college football game.

Vanderbilt University plays in the South-Eastern Conference (SEC), meaning Fuller became the first woman to play for one of the “Power Five” college conferences as they are known, accounting for the largest football programs in the country.

Previously, players such as Liz Heaston in 1997, Tonya Butler and Katie Hnida in 2003, and April Goss in 2015 have played on college teams but never made it to one of the “Power Five”.

The organisation responsible for running the college sports scene in the US, The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), described Fuller as the first woman to play “in a major conference football game”.

Fuller said: “It’s just so exciting, the fact that I can represent the little girls out there who wanted to do this or thought about playing football, or any sport.”

“And [if] it encourages them to be able to step out and do something big like this, [that’s] awesome,” she said.

Vanderbilt was unable to get within goal range of the Missouri Tigers, meaning that Fuller’s only involvement in the game was a kick-off in the second half, her team already behind 21-0.

The Washington Football Team NFL coach, Ron Rivera, said it was a “perfect mortar kick, to catch Missouri off guard and avoid them being able to return the kick; also known as a “pooch” or “squib” kick.

Star NFL quarterback, Russell Wilson, and US soccer champion, Mia Hamm, watched the game from home and praised Fuller for her achievement on social media.

“Congratulations @SarahFuller_27 ! It was so amazing watching you make history with my daughters” Hamm said on Twitter.

“Honestly, I was just really calm…,” Fuller said.

“I was really excited to step out on the field and do my thing.

“I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to, you really can.

“And if you have that mentality all the way through, you can do big things,” she said.

Following the disruptions caused to the US college football season due to COVID-19, Vanderbilt head coach, Derek Mason, said that he needed to “think outside the box”, compelling him to call the coach of the soccer team, who recommended Fuller.

Mason said: “In practice, the guys were impressed the first day she came out, she put the ball through the uprights, she was fearless and she plays football the same way she plays soccer.”

“She wasn’t trying to set some landmark event.

“She was just trying to help really where she could,” he said.

The slogan “Play like a girl” was written on the back of Fuller’s helmet for the historic game.