DALLAS — Vanderbilt’s Sarah Fuller is this week’s nominee for the 2020 Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award. Fuller, the Commodores’ place kicker, became the first woman to play in a Power 5 game this past Saturday.
“I honestly haven’t taken a second to soak it all in, really. I just think it’s incredible that I am able to do this,” Fuller said afterward. “All I want is to be a good influence to the young girls out there because there were times that I struggled in sports, but I am so thankful I stuck with it. It’s giving me so many opportunities, and I’ve met so many amazing people through sports.
“I just want to say, literally, you can do anything you set your mind to — that’s the No. 1 thing.”
Fuller took the opening kickoff of the third quarter of Vanderbilt’s loss at Missouri, becoming the first woman to officially play in a major conference football game. She kicked the ball 30 yards to the Tigers’ 35-yard line on a designed pooch kick, just six days after helping Vanderbilt’s soccer team win the SEC tournament title.
Fuller, the soccer team’s goalkeeper, had allowed just four goals in four games during the tournament. COVID-19 had left the Commodores’ football team without several specialists in their prep for Missouri, so the program called upon Fuller for help.
Fuller became the third woman to appear in an FBS game, joining New Mexico’s Kate Hnida and Kent State’s April Goss. She was named SEC special teams player of the week, and she is expected to be on Vanderbilt’s travel roster for this Saturday’s game at Georgia.
The Wylie, Texas, native was named to the SEC academic honor roll in 2019 and 2018 and the SEC first-year academic honor roll in 2017. Fuller started nine of 12 games for Vanderbilt’s soccer team this fall, leading the Commodores to a 7-2-0 record while posting a 0.97 goals against average, the eighth-best single-season mark in program history.
Fuller plans to transfer to North Texas, where she will play soccer for two more years and pursue her master’s degree in hospital administration.
“She wasn’t trying to set some landmark event. She was just trying to help really where she could,” Derek Mason said after the game. “There’s just a lot to be said about Sarah and her unselfishness and her ability to say, ‘OK, if called upon, if needed, I’m a Commodore and anything that I can do to help this team I’ll do it.’ She did it with a smile on her face all week.
“For her, I just think the world of her. Her ability to just be in the moment and not really be scared of the moment or afraid of the moment but just looking to dominate the moment is what she did. Hat’s off to her.”
The Courage Award was first presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in 2002. A select group of writers from the FWAA vote on the winner each year. The requirements for nomination include displaying courage on or off the field, including overcoming an injury or physical handicap, preventing a disaster or living through hardship. The winner of the award will be included in festivities during Capital One Orange Bowl week and receive his trophy at an on-field presentation.
Previous winners of the Capital One Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award are Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson (2019), SUNY Cortland linebacker Kyle Richard (2018), Wisconsin safety D’Cota Dixon (2017), Pitt running back James Conner (2016), Miami offensive lineman Hunter Knighton (2015), Duke offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson (2014), San Jose State defensive lineman Anthony Larceval (2013), Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez (2012), Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. (2011), Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand (2010), the University of Connecticut football team (2009), Tulsa’s Wilson Holloway (2008), Navy’s Zerbin Singleton (2007), Clemson’s Ray Ray McElrathbey (2006), the Tulane football team (2005), Memphis’ Haracio Colen (2004), San Jose State’s Neil Parry (2003) and Toledo’s William Bratton (2002).
About the Orange Bowl The Orange Bowl is a 380-member, primarily-volunteer non-profit sports organization that promotes and serves the South Florida community. With its primary mission since being created in 1935 to bring tourism to South Florida through an annual football game and events, it has also maintained a legacy of charitable contributions and community outreach. Orange Bowl community outreach efforts are comprised of four pillars: youth sports, fundraising and community events, academic programs and scholarships, and legacy gifts. The Orange Bowl features a year-round schedule of events culminating with the Capital One Orange Bowl on Jan. 2, 2021. The Orange Bowl also led a community-wide effort to bring the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship to South Florida. It will be played on Jan. 11, 2021 (2021miami.com). For more information on the 2020-2021 Orange Bowl events, including promotional and volunteer opportunities through the Ambassador Program presented by Panera Bread, log on to orangebowl.org or follow @OrangeBowl on social media.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,200 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at email@example.com.
2020 Orange Bowl Courage Award Nominees • Oct. 28: Jon Dietzen, Wisconsin
- Nov. 4: Alex Charlton, Arkansas State
- Nov. 11: D’Eriq King, Miami
- Nov. 18: Kentucky football team
- Nov. 25: Chase Allen, Iowa State
- Dec. 2: Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt