Vanderbilt's Sarah Fuller ready to become first female SEC football player
Fuller would become the first woman to play in an SEC football game if she takes the field against Missouri (11 a.m., SEC Network).
Fuller boarded the team plane from Nashville to Columbia, Missouri, on Friday afternoon, Vanderbilt spokesperson Alan George confirmed. And she was added to the football roster on Vanderbilt's official website.
Fuller will be among a limited number of specialists available for the game because of COVID-19 contact tracing, according to a Vanderbilt news release.
On the back of Fuller's helmet will read "Play Like a Girl."
On Wednesday's SEC coaches teleconference, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said, "Fuller is an option. We are keeping all our options open right now. We'll get a chance to see what she can do on Saturday, if given the opportunity."
Women have made a few appearances in college football games since 1997, when Liz Heaston kicked two extra points for Willamette, then an NAIA program.
New Mexico's Katie Hnida became the first woman to score at the FBS level when she kicked two extra points against Texas State in 2003. Kent State's April Goss made an extra point against Delaware State in 2015.
Fuller would be the first in a Power Five conference.
'Have you ever kicked a football before?'
Fuller, the senior starting goalkeeper, led Vanderbilt to the SEC women's soccer tournament championship last week. She was planning to travel to her home in Wylie, Texas, for the holiday break until soccer associate head coach Ken Masuhr called her with an unexpected set of questions.
Have you ever kicked a football before? Would you want to be a kicker on the football team? Would you be able to stay here this weekend and be a kicker for the football team?
Fuller answered yes to each question and soon suited up at football practice.
"(Monday) I decided I was just going to take in the win and take in the soccer aspect," Fuller said. "(Tuesday) it's like now let's get into the football stuff. It hits me every now and then I’m like, 'Whoa this is all happening.'"
Fuller said she made her first field goal attempt and kept making them.
Will Fuller play in a Vanderbilt football game?
Fuller could be asked to attempt a PAT kick, a field goal or a kickoff. Mason said she kicked in each of those situations in practice this week.
"She's got a strong leg," Mason said. "We'll see what that yields."
Vanderbilt has not released which kickers are available to play against Missouri, but its numbers were already depleted before the latest COVID-19 contact tracing.
Kicker Oren Milstein, a Columbia graduate transfer, opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. Javan Rice, a 2018 signee, has not played this season for unspecified reasons.
Walk-on Pierson Cooke has attempted every field goal, including misses from 22 and 29 yards. Wes Farley, a former high school soccer player, had never played in a football game before walking on at Vanderbilt. He temporarily replaced Cooke to make six PATs.
Vanderbilt kickers are 15-for-15 on PAT kicks but just 3-for-7 on field goals, the worst percentage in the SEC. The Commodores (0-7) are still seeking their first win of the season.
Punters Harrison Smith, a former Brentwood Academy standout, and Jared Wheatley are also on the roster, but their availability is unknown.
"I think it's amazing and incredible," Fuller said about her potential participation in the game. "But I'm also trying to separate that because I know this is a job I need to do and I want to help the team out and I want to do the best that I can.
"Placing that historical aspect aside just helps me focus in on what I need to do. I don’t want to let them down in anyway."
Reach Adam Sparks at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AdamSparks.