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VOL. 42 | NO. 51 | Friday, December 21, 2018

VU’s Vaughn gets second shot at stardom running ball ‘in my city’

By Ivan Aronin

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Vanderbilt’s football success this season forced running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn to clear his calendar after the regular season.

“I am not used to these extra practices in December,” admits the former Pearl-Cohn star who was named Southeastern Conference Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press.

Vaughn will play in his first bowl game as the Commodores prepare to face Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27. Vaughn was at Illinois for the 2015-16 seasons, then transferred to Vanderbilt and sat out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer rules.

Commodores Coach Derek Mason was quick with advice for his star running back.

“Tell him to enjoy it,” says a laughing Mason, who put the team through a 75-minute practice on the day it accepted the bowl bid.

“When you have the opportunity to practice in December, it lets you sharpen your skills.”

Vaughn announced his transfer from Illinois to Vanderbilt in January of 2017. He started eight games in two years for the Illini and was the team’s leading rusher as a freshman. Midway through the 2016 season, Illinois Coach Lovie Smith dropped Vaughn from the starting lineup.

“Coming here (from Illinois) was a better situation for me,” explains Vaughn, who scored at least one touchdown in eight of the 11 games in which he played this season. “I knew they had had a couple of 1,000-yard rushers recently and if they could do it here, I knew I could do it too.”

Vaughn’s decision to leave the Big Ten for Vanderbilt scored big points for both himself and the Commodores. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior earned the newcomer award and was named to AP’s All SEC second team.

He led SEC running backs with 7.0 yards per rush and had more runs of at least 40 yards (seven) and at least 60 yards (three) than any other running back in the league. Vaughn finished the regular season with 1,001 yards (fifth in the SEC and the sixth Vanderbilt player to reach 1,000 yards) on 144 carries with 12 total touchdowns (10 rushing, 2 receiving).

He missed the Kentucky game and half of two others with injuries, including leaving the eventual win over Tennessee in the first quarter with a shoulder injury.

The junior running back also set a school record for most rushing yards against an SEC opponent with 182 yards (on 15 carries) in a 33-28 loss at Missouri on Nov. 10.

“Ke’Shawn ran the ball the way he was supposed to, but it wasn’t good enough to win. This is still a team game,” Mason said after the loss to Missouri.

Two weeks prior to that game, Vaughn rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 26 carries in a 45-31 victory over Arkansas.

“I felt good. Taking that week off (he did not play the previous week against Kentucky because of an injury) had its advantages,” Vaughn said after the Arkansas game. “It was just good to get back out there with my team.”

Despite Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur throwing for 2,844 yards and 23 touchdowns, and both wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney being selected for the AP’s All-SEC second team, Vaughn says he never worried about getting ignored in the Commodores’ offense.

“I just try to take advantage of the situation whenever I get the ball,” Vaughn said after the Arkansas game. “Whenever I get the ball I know I have to make a play. Whenever I get the ball I know it is time to roll.”

In the three full games in which he played after missing the Kentucky game, Vaughn had 66 carries for 481 yards and five touchdowns.

Vaughn was not the only Nashville native Commodore to have extended football success this season.

Cornerback Joejuan Williams, a Father Ryan graduate, was named to the All-SEC second team with an SEC-leading 15 passes defended, with 56 tackles and four interceptions. Defensive back Donovan Sheffield, who played at Ensworth, played in all 12 games and had 36 tackles with five passes defended.

Linebacker Brayden DeVault-Smith, also from Pearl-Cohn, played in all 12 games and had seven tackles. Linebacker Andrew Rector from Father Ryan also played in all 12 games and had three tackles.

Vaughn has been mentioned in media reports as being included in a group of Vanderbilt players who might enter next spring’s NFL Draft, to be held in Nashville. He said that while he is aware that some star college players will bench themselves for a bowl game to avoid injuries, he plans to be on the field against Baylor.

“I haven’t really thought about the NFL or the draft,” he adds. “I just want to play football here right now. I have heard all that is being said about me, and it just motivates me to do more on the field.”

Vaughn says he does have plans to eventually play in the NFL.

“When it is time to put on the helmet and snap the ball in the pros … wherever I am at, that team will get a good football player.”

He also provided some advice for the Baylor defensive coaches who are preparing a scouting report for the Texas Bowl.

“It is very hard to scout someone like me,” Vaughn points out. “I’m patient and let the blocks develop. You can’t stop me from getting to the second level of the defense.”

This season, Vaughn, who said he expects a lot of people from Nashville to ask for his help to get tickets to the bowl game, just extended his football success in the city.

At Pearl-Cohn he was a two-time All-State running back with more than 5,000 yards and 75 touchdowns in his high school career.

“I just like playing football in my city,” he said.

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