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After hearing from Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, Vandy's Sarah Fuller to keep kicking

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 11/29/2020 Paul Skrbina, Nashville Tennessean
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — History is her story.

But her story is hardly history.

Now that Sarah Fuller has added football uniform to a sports wardrobe that also includes goalie garb for the soccer team, what's next for the first woman to appear in a Power 5 football game?

a man wearing a helmet: Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson) © L.G. Patterson, AP Vanderbilt place kicker Sarah Fuller warms up before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

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For one she plans to remain part of the Vanderbilt football team for the foreseeable future, kicking until "they kick me off."

"I'll stay around as long as they want me," said Fuller, who added Sunday she discussed that with coaches during Saturday's game and is planning to begin studying film of NFL kickers.

Wearing a white jersey donning the No. 32 — the number she wears on the soccer field — a gold helmet adorned with the words "Play like a girl" on the back and football pants, Fuller kicked off for the Commodores to begin the second half of their game Saturday at Missouri.

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When her right foot struck the ball, her place in college football lore was permanently penned.

Fuller had a premonition before joining the football team, her place solidified after COVID-19 caused a shortened roster. She was riding a bus with her soccer teammates, watching the Vanderbilt football team, when she announced she thought she could kick.

Fuller also used her "goalie voice" during a halftime speech Saturday, on the heels of helping the Commodores win the SEC women's soccer tournament last week.

Fuller, who didn't have the opportunity to record a point Saturday during the 41-0 loss, wasn't the first woman to appear in a college football game. Aside from kicking field goals with soccer balls last semester, Fuller hadn't thought much about football since she was in a grade school punt, pass and kick competition.

Her foot, she said, could give volume to her mouth.

"I would love to continue telling my story because it's been a long road for me," she said. "It hasn't been easy at times. I would love to go around and talk to people about what it's like to be a college athlete. ... There are hard times when you want to quit."

Fuller hopes her historic story and the platform that comes with it is just beginning. While she doesn't want to get too far ahead of herself, and wants to keep up with her studies, Fuller said she may choose to hire an agent when NCAA name, image and likeness rules allow, possibly as soon as Jan. 31, when legislation is expected to be approved.

"I really haven't been focusing on that," she said. "I've been focusing on learning football. ... I think my next smartest move would be to get an agent of some type and take the smartest approach. ... Right now I'm here for the team."

While Fuller has almost overnight become a role model for female athletes, she has a few role models herself, some of whom she has heard from in the last several days.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, "a trailblazer herself." Soccer legends Mia Hamm and Tim Howard.

"I had a little talk back and forth (with Howard) and I was like, 'I'm talking to Tim Howard right now, how insane,' " Fuller said. 

"Hope Solo was defending me on Twitter at one point. I was like, 'What? Hope Solo!' So cool.' "

She's also faced her share of critics on social media, which she said she understands comes with the territory.

"I've been through the wringer," she said. "All these little comments people are saying, whatever. It's nothing."

Fuller, 21, isn't the first woman to take a football field in college. She was preceded by New Mexico's Katie Hnida in 2003 and Kent State's April Goss in 2015. Both scored points as kickers in FBS games, though in Group of Five conferences. Liz Heaston kicked two extra points for Willamette, at the time an NAIA program, in 1997.

"I was like, 'I feel like I could do that,'" Fuller said of kicking while watching the Vanderbilt football team on that recent bus ride. "My teammates were like, 'No. That's fine.' I was like, 'No, I really do think I could do that,' and then it happened, so that was crazy."

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: After hearing from Billie Jean King, Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, Vandy's Sarah Fuller to keep kicking

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