Rookie Spotlight: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt University
Height: 5’ 9 5/8” (official)
Weight: 214 lbs (official)
Hands: 8 7/8”
Arm: 30 7/8”
40 yard dash: 4.51 (official)
NFL Comparison: Spencer Ware, Ryquell Armstead, Zac Stacy
– powerful one cut and up runner
– prototypical frame
– runs through contact
– wait for blocks
– fast in the open field
– good blocker
– good hands as a receiver during limited Senior Bowl work
– uber-productive within context of his offense
– lacks explosion
– not evasive
– production declined from junior senior season
– 35th percentile SPARQ athlete
2019 Team Market Share Numbers
55% rushing attempts
36% total offensive yards
48% offensive TDs
Scouting Notes: Vaughn has most of the qualities you want in a two-down back and nothing more. He’s a bullish between the tackles bruiser who waits patiently for his blocks and plows his way upfield. You get one cut from Vaughn before he’s full steam ahead, but it’s usually a good one, and he doesn’t get creative in the open field. That’s ok for the most part, because he has the power to run through contact and pick up the necessary yardage – He’s not going to juke his way to paydirt. Vaughn is surprisingly swift when he gets up to speed, and he’s hard to tackle at any pace. With a nose for the end zone, he averaged 12 TDs over his last two seasons, Vaughn is efficient in tight spaces. As a pass catcher, he had 28 grabs in his last season for 1 TD. He’s got decent hands, but he doesn’t project to be involved in the passing game much. Vaughn is a proficient blocker as you could imagine someone of his build and aggression would be, though he can be inconsistent at times. He even admitted at the combine it was the thing he needed to work on the most. Vaughn isn’t an exciting player, but he’s productive and sturdy, and that will go a long way with teams looking for a dependable ball carrier.
Fantasy Outlook: Vaughn had an middling Combine with solid 4.51 forty time. There aren’t a lot of variables to go with his play, so I think teams will feel safe taking a shot on him in the 3rd round or early on Day 3. For fantasy purposes, what you see is what you get. He could churn his way to a 1,000 yard season as someone’s primary ball carrier, but it’s more likely that he’s going to make his nut inside the 5 yard line, if he gets that role. As he’s not an exceptional athlete, he’s going to need the right landing spot to get on the fantasy radar, which is certainly a possibility. I want to see where he goes, and if he can rise above the rest in camp before designating him as more than a flyer in dynasty drafts. Chances are he enters the league as someone’s backup.
As a Senior (2019)
• Maxwell Award watch list
• Doak Walker Award watch list
• Preseason All-American Second Team All-Purpose (Athlon Sports)
• Preseason All-SEC First Team (Athlon Sports, Lindy’s)
• Preseason All-SEC Second Team (SEC Media Days ballot)
• Participated in 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl
• Participated in 2020 NFL Scouting Combine
• Started every game at running back
• 1,015 rushing yards, eighth highest season total in team history
• Nine rushing touchdowns, tied for sixth most in team history
• In 23 appearances, has 2,259 yards, fifth all-time among Vanderbilt backs
• Has 21 rushing touchdowns, third all-time among Vanderbilt backs
• Has nine 100+ rushing performances, fourth all-time among Vanderbilt backs
• Has 3,144 career rushing yards, 12th most among active players in NCAA
• Just third Vanderbilt back to post multiple 1,000+ rushing seasons, joining Ralph Webb and Zac Stacy
• Vaughn rushed for 139 yards and two scores against East Tennessee State.
• Rushed for 130 yards and two scores against nationally ranked LSU
• 140 rushing yards against UNLV
• 138 rushing yards and a touchdown in win over Northern Illinois
• Rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns in win over East Tennessee State
• 75-yard rush for touchdown against East Tennessee State
• 138 rushing yards and a touchdown in win over Northern Illinois
The Vaughn File
• Prepped at Pearl-Cohn (Tenn.)
• Two-year letter winner at Illinois (2015-16)
• Eight starts and 1,024 rushing yards for nine touchdowns during two seasons at Illinois
• Team-high 723 rushing yards and six scores as a freshman at Illinois
• Big Ten All-Academic
• Four-year varsity letter winner as a prep
• 2014 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year
• 2014 Mr. Football
• 2014 4A Back of the Year
• 2,646 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns as senior,
• Led prep team to 11-3 record and state semifinals as a senior
• Over 2,000 rushing yards as a junior
• Two-time all-state
• Two-time all-mid-state
• Two-time all-region
• Standout sprinter on track and field team
• Born in Nashville, Tenn.
• Full name is Ke’Shawn LaMonte Vaughn
• Son of Keith Vaughn and Tameka Dennis
• Two brothers — Dominique Trotter and Ke’Juan Vaughn — and two sisters, Ke’Osha Vaughn and Sydnee McGee
• Majoring in sociology
Quotable from the Combine:
What’s this process been like for you so far?
“I’m just taking it in day by day. There’s a lot been going on through these last couple months, from training to phone interviews, talking with coaches. But this is an opportunity I’ve dreamed of since I was a child, so just taking it all in.”
You had good numbers last year despite an offense that struggled. What does that say about what you might be able to do with a more balanced offense in the NFL?
“It shows how dedicated I am to the game, how I’m able to fight through adversity and still produce with that team … Could have had a better season, but it’s in the past. As far as as me, it just shows I can still work hard (despite) the circumstances.”
You’re one of the most explosive backs in this class. You translate speed to power very well. Was that encouraged by your coaching staff?
“That’s just my running style. It’s just how I run the ball. I consider myself as a grimy player. So, what I could have been as a child on the streets and everything, I kind of translate that onto the football field. So that’s kind of how I move on the football field.”
What does `grimy’ mean? That’s an interesting word to describe yourself.
“I mean like hard, very confident. I’ve got that kind of swag about myself and I know I can’t be brought down. So that’s kind of my mindset and then, if you’re a defender, you’re just in my way of a touchdown. That’s kind of what grimy mean to me.”
Where did you spend your time in Nashville (growing up) playing, whether it was backyards or in the streets?
“I started out playing football in the projects called (unclear), kind of where I started playing in the front yard of my old t-house, playing outside with a water bottle as a football. So that’s kind of how the whole football thing started. From then, it’s just been football, football since five years old.”
How rough was it? You play with the older kids?
“I played with the older kids, all the kids that were outside, older or younger. We started giving each other nicknames when we were kids. I was LaDainian Tomlinson, that’s who I wanted to be. That’s who I modeled my game after. So when we were playing in the front yard, playing in the streets, wherever it was … that’s kind of how football was for me.”
Nice bump in pass-catching numbers last year despite the team’s offense overall. That something you focused on?
“Catching is something I’ve been focusing on for a long time now. Before college, I was never really catching the ball out of the backfield unless it was a Y route.You get to college and you got to adjust. You’re on more routes because you get inserted into the pass concept. So I gained more confidence in myself as a natural catcher. That’s something I take much pride in. That’s kind of something I showed last season.”
Your Texas Bowl was a thing of legend at Vandy. What went right that night that sprung you?
“I tell people all the time that before the game started, we had a little break. I was in the gameroom playing. I was like, Air Hockey, I won Air Hockey. 2K, I won 2K. Madden, I won Madden. There was another game I won. I was like, `No, I’m done.’ I just kept winning so I feel like that just kind of sparked that whole drive that I had that game, and knowing I had something to prove. So that’s kind of … I ended up leaving the last game of the season, which was the (Tennessee) game, I left that game early. So coming into that Texas Bowl game, I knew I had something to prove. And I kind of did.”
What was it like for you growing up in Nashville, playing for Vanderbilt and now representing the city in some fashion?
“I love it. Got the whole city supporting me. I’m one of the really true Nashville guys that actually is from the real Nashville Nashville. I’m one of the biggest names out of the inner city of Nashville. So you’ve got the whole support of Nashville rooting for me. As far as Vanderbilt, family coming out to the game, friends, fans from high school coming out to the games. So it’s just a lot of support around me for the whole city.”
In terms of the hometown, have you talked to the Titans at all?
“Um, I haven’t really talked to the Titans much. We talked yesterday, met with the RB coach (Tony Dews) and just talked football.”
What do you think of Derrick Henry and what kind of complement could you be to him?
“I feel like that would be a good situation, just the fact that, if I go to the Titans, I know I’d be going into number two back. So him getting 30, 40 carries, however many they give him, he’s kind of wearing down the defense. So you got me as an explosive back, I can come in and capitalize on the defenses being tired here and there. So that would be a good one-two punch if it could happen.”
(On who he compares himself to in NFL and why)
“I’d say kind of Alvin Kamara-type running backs that could be used anywhere. That’s something like I mentioned earlier about taking pride in catching out of the backfield, pass-blocking, just anything to keep me on the field is something I take pride in.”
How has playing against SEC defenses prepared you for the NFL?
“I mean, facing top defenses every week, week in and week out, and showing me it’s just football at the end of the day. My mindset is that I don’t care who’s in front of me. They’re just playing defense. Names don’t care to me. Rankings of the defense don’t care to me. I’m just going out there playing football. I don’t care who it is in front of me. I’m trying to score, so you’re just in the way.”
You were a four-star recruit that started at Illinois and went to Vandy. Is it safe to sort of say you embrace the underdog role? Because you got offers from bigger programs, but you came and you were kind of a savior in mostly overlooked Power 5 programs.
“My mindset with the college route was that it’s easy to go to the Bamas, O-State, LSUs, and all that, and maybe you’d just be another player in that program. I want to go to a program I can help turn around, set myself apart. Because both programs, before I went there, were 6-6 and had just made bowl games. So I’m thinking the uprise is on the way. So that’s kind of why I chose Illinois coming out and then as far as Vandy, the same way.”
(On what he’s working on)
“Pass protection, that’s the biggest thing, especially in a league that you’ve got this quarterback getting paid $100 million behind you. You get him hurt, no job for you. So that’s the biggest thing as far as what I need – I won’t say improvement – but I know that’s the biggest obstacle that I have to achieve.”
How much did you consider leaving Vanderbilt after junior year and was it a tough decision if you did?
“I thought about it a lot. I was thinking about it halfway during the season, so I kind of zoned out a little bit as far as schoolwork and all this. But I kind of locked back in toward the end of the season. But it was a hard decision. Talked to some coaches, mom, family, just tried to get opinions from everybody. And then, I was almost done with school. So I graduated from Vanderbilt this past December, and I’m a guy who really don’t like school. So my mindset was go on and finish school, and don’t got to worry about it going through the draft process. Now, it’s just football, football. My mindset was also, `I’d rather regret not coming out then regret that I should have stayed.’ So that was kind of my mindset last year.”
Why was that your mindset?
“Just because you see how, if you back and read (things), you see so many underclassmen coming out early. They just end up free agents. Don’t even get picked up. So that’s kind of a mental thing I took note of in my head. So I’m here now.”
You feel like you helped yourself going back for another year?
“Yeah, I feel like I did help myself. Just showing that I was consistent with my play and production. So coaches see that on film. I feel like it helped me a lot.”
Are there questions you feel like you need to address on what may be out there this week? About your game?
“I mean, I recently deleted Twitter just because of all the negative comments I read about me. Most of the time, I just feel like it’s stuff that’s made up just to make it up, as far as speed, catching, pass protection, just stuff to put on a running back to say he’s got some cons. But I feel like for the most part, my game is complete and that’s just something I take pride in. I feel like really getting away from the negative images from just random Twitter people. So that’s really why I deleted Twitter.”
Has that been effective?
“That’s been effective. I ain’t stressed about nothing. I’m really just kind of sitting back, knowing coaches already know who they want. They already watched the film … Everything is in my ballpark now to make me be successful.”
Have you talked with the Titans?
Have you talked with the Falcons?
“I talked with them yesterday, informal. I’ve got a lot of formals coming up Thursday.”
What was their message to you?
“A lot of them are just talking football, pass protection, run concepts, and I’m catching on to all of them … so I’m able to adjust to their terminology faster.”
(On someone you model your game after)
“Not currently, but in the past growing up it was LaDainian Tomlinson. That was somebody I watched … Now you could say Alvin Kamara as far as my favorite running back currently.”
What did you like about LT?
“I don’t even know how I became a fan, honestly. I mean, there’s so much about LT that I didn’t know we had in common, as far as our college jersey … I noticed that late in the process of college. Just how he carried himself. He could catch the ball out of the backfield, make guys miss, explosive. So just chasing his records.”
Who’s the greatest running back of all time?
Was there a team you watched growing up?
“I was really more of a players’ guy. I followed LT, so when he was with the Chargers, I was a Chargers fan. When he went to the Jets, I was a Jets fan. Once he retired, I was an Oregon fan when I was in high school. They had LaMichael James. I kind of followed him once he got in the league. I was also a Deon Thomas fan, so that’s where the nickname The Red Mamba came about, in high school, due to Kobe Bryant being one of my favorite players and Deon Thomas, both of them being a Black Mamba. I didn’t want to be the Black Mamba again, so I went with my team color. We were red. I kind of follow players instead of teams. Now, I don’t got a favorite player, so I have no team.”
You’re a relatively new father. Congrats. How are you balancing that with everything you’ve been doing – graduating, draft prep, end of season? How has that been?
“It’s been a bumpy road because I been missing my kid. Besides, I got (the kid’s) mom, my mom is supporting her. My dad is helping out. So my family is kind of helping his mother out in this process. But I’ve been back home a couple of weekends just to see him. For me, he understands. I talk to him about that process all the time. He might not actually understand, but he’s hearing me, telling him that I got to go, doing this for you and your mom. I even, our team chaplain, he kind of told me to keep a journal and kind of write to my son and then when he’s old enough, just give it to him. So in that journal, I just have been keeping him updated in this process. When he gets older, he’ll understand why I was gone. I did stuff for him.”
Getting back to Vanderbilt, lot of discussion about facilities, (former AD Malcolm Turner) is out, Candace Lee is in. As a player, where do you think Vandy needs to go in terms of their facilities in order to bring in top-level recruits and sustain a a successful SEC program?
“As far as football-wise, you’ve got to get new facilities. Because you’re in the SEC. You’re competing with other teams that got great facilities, and players are drawn to facilities. So Vandy also got school to sell, too. School is a side you can sell to player. You come to Vandy, you get a great degree and that holds so much weight. But you also got to get facilities for the main sports, at least, say, football, because that’s my sport. You’ve got to invest in football facilities to draw these players in where you can compete in the SEC.”
If you had to boil down your college career to one play, and you’ve got 15 seconds, what is Ke’Shawn Vaughn’s biggest play?
“I would say the Baylor game once again, the third 60-yard run. That kind of showed my power, breaking tackles. I want to say it was a counter play into the left side. It kind of showed my power, broke about three or four tackles. Got down the sideline, showed the speed and (scored a touchdown).”
Do you things slow down for you in the backfield? Do you things develop?
“It depends on … I would say this past year, I was kind of rushing fast, just due to like certain situations with this past team. But like 2018, I was able to slow the game down. I’m able to kind of pre-read, just knowing the blocking schemes. You’re kind of able to pre-read where the line will be going to, taking the team to. You’re kind of able to tell whether (there’s a) cutback or not. So I’m doing pre-read, pre-scanning before the play.”
So you have instinctual flow of how the defenses are playing against you?
“Yeah, I know … For me, I’m just nervous first play. I’m just trying to see how the defense going. After that, you figure out if they’re flowing heavy. Most of them going to flow heavy. If they’re watching film, they got to get this back down, he’s a speedy back. You know they’re going to be aggressive with that.”
Do you (get excited) when you see a 5-2 front, more linebackers and less secondary?
“Oh yeah, if it’s a 5-man box, I love it. Especially like outside zone … a 5-2 front, probably want to run a little zone concept play with that. Anything that gives me options. Zone concepts give options.”
Have you had a chance to speak to Green Bay at all?
What kind of a teammate was Khari Blasingame and have you paid attention to him with the Titans?
“He was a leader, the kind of guy who looks to help others. Great teammate. I’d say we grew closer that last season. The year before, the beginning of the season … we were all fighting for a starting spot. Just going throughout the season, understanding each other and trying to find each others’ roles in that offense, kind of (unclear quote) with each other for what roles we did have. Great motivator, great runner, great teammate.”
You paid attention to him with the Titans?
“Yeah … He done good. Done established himself as a fullback. Derrick Henry, who wouldn’t want to block for Derrick Henry? He making plays on the field when he get an opportunity.”
How valuable was (Vandy teammate Jared Pinkney) to you in terms of being a good run blocker?
“Pink took pride in that, showing he could be a run-blocker. That was his biggest thing for coming back, too, showing that he could run block. Me and him used to talk all the time about blocking schemes … reading him. So I’m telling, `You’re my read.’ So I guess I kind of let him relax also. Just get them out of the way however you can. That’s something he took pride in this year and I appreciate him for that.”
What’s it like being here with (Vandy teammates Pinkney and Kalija Lipscomb)?
“It’s a great feeling, me and K and Pink out here, achieving the dream we all trying to achieve. I tell them that hopefully we link up one year and get a Super Bowl ring. We deserve it. It was a great experience with my brothers just being here.”