image captionSarah Fuller played with an inspirational message on her helmet
Sarah Fuller has become the first woman to play in a Power 5 match – the elite level of collegiate American football.
Fuller, 21, took to the field for the Vanderbilt Commodores as a placekicker in a road game against the Missouri Tigers in the city of Columbia.
“I just want to tell all the girls out there that you can do anything you set your mind to,” she said afterwards.
Fuller was called in because many players were self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak in the US.
During Saturday’s match, which her team lost 41-0,
she wore a helmet with the slogan Play Like A Girl on the back – in support of a non-profit group encouraging girls to play sports.
“History made,” tweeted the Southeastern Conference (SEC), showing the moment Fuller stepped on to the pitch to kick off at the start of the second half.
There was some social media criticism at the length of the kick but coach Derek Mason said it was an executed plan – a squib kick intended to prevent a return. Given the score, it was her only opportunity.
The Power 5 refers to five conferences, including the SEC, considered the elite of collegiate football. The SEC has 14 university teams.
College football is massive in the US, supplying the vast majority of players who go on to the NFL.
Several women have appeared at lower levels of collegiate football. Tonya Butler was the first to kick a field goal, for West Alabama in 2003.
Fuller, who US media report is 6ft 2in (187cm), is a regular goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee.
Ahead of Saturday’s game, tennis great Billie Jean King – who is also remembered as the winner the Battle of the Sexes tennis match against a man in 1973 – tweeted: “Women belong in the game!”
Football history may happen today.
Good luck to @VanderbiltUs Sarah Fuller, goalkeeper for the womens soccer team, who is dressing for their football team as its place-kicker.
If she plays, she will be the 1st woman to do so in Power 5 football.
Women belong in the game!
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) November 28, 2020
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