Sports writers aren’t demanding that a female Vanderbilt University place-kicker be awarded the Heisman Trophy – not yet anyway – but they can hardly contain themselves over Sarah Fuller’s farcical appearance Saturday in a Southeastern Conference football game.
Fuller is a women’s soccer player at Vanderbilt who appeared in part of one play during the school football team’s 41-0 loss to Missouri Saturday. At the start of the second half, Fuller booted the ball 30 yards, but she wasn’t even on the field for the conclusion of the play because she wisely ran to the sidelines as soon as the ball was in the air to save her neck. What’s happened since then is insane.
Fuller has become the new Chauncey Gardner just for being there on a football field with men. Gardner was a simpleton who became a national celebrity for advising the president in a movie. Fuller is a PC pawn in a violent men’s sport. The media and some football-connected people lost their minds, and the storied Southeastern Conference named her co-special teams player of the week. No joke.
“It’s hard to put into words what her kick represented,” said Emily Zaler, an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Denver Broncos. “It was more than a kick.”
Of course, Fuller was toasted on ESPN Sports Center (see her, at right, in photo above and video below).
Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo Sports, gushed about Fuller providing validation for so many women. He also extrapolated Fuller’s cameo college football appearance to a future of women breaking barriers in the NFL. Football has “had no place for half the population,” he groans.
Dennis Dodd, of CBS Sports, raves about Fuller’s soaring marketability in his story, “How one kick sent Sarah Fuller's social media value soaring as athletes wait for name, image, likeness rights”.:
“Sarah Fuller would have made more than history this weekend for a memory if name, image and likeness (NIL) were allowed in the NCAA. She'd be significantly richer. The potential earning power of the Vanderbilt soccer goalie-turned-football blew up in the last week after she become the first female athlete to participate in a Power Five Football game.”
MSN Sports’ Stephen Douglas says Fuller deserves better because Vanderbilt stinks in football and she hasn’t yet gotten an opportunity to kick a field goal. “If the NCAA had any heart, they'd let her switch teams this weekend so she could guarantee she could kick some footballs that could be exchanged for points on the board,” Douglas writes.
Industry experts told CBS Sports that Fuller's social media value rose from $65 per post to $7,500 and she could potentially earn $160,000 annually. NCAA athletes currently aren’t eligible to profit from their names, images, and likenesses, but Dodd says she can potentially become significantly richer thanks to her newfound fame.
“Fuller's overnight celebrity shows what awaits such athletes in the future,” Dodd writes. “Social media is expected to be a profit center for athletes when NIL (name, image, likeness) legislation is expected to be passed by the NCAA in January 2021. It would allow athletes to capitalize monetarily on their fame for the first time. The legislation would go into effect in August.”
According to Dodd, Fuller won’t be around when scholarship athletes start collecting tons of money along with books and tuition. She can cash in on a lucrative speaking career, however. (Suggested speaking title: “How I cashed in from running off a football field in four seconds flat.”) Nike may want to cash in here with a Fuller product line.
Blake Lawrence, the CEO of Opendorse, a Nebraska social media platform serving athletes, is also magnifying the significance of what Fuller did to laughable lengths. "The first woman to full-in-the-blank has a stage to stand on for a long time. There's a new perception when an athlete has this break out moment. We think, 'Oh what if they could make money.' Next year, they can."
Life is grand for the overnight sensation Sarah Fuller right now. In the jaded media’s views. Just think how her legendary status, not to mention her future earnings potential, will soar if she stays on the field for a whole play or kicks a field goal in Saturday’s game against Georgia. Media may be swooning up in the press box and across the nation if that happens. An ESPY award is already a good bet for Fuller, too.