By Tyler Martin
Special to Tidesports
HOOVER — After two years at the University of Illinois, running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn knew it was time to come home.
The Nashville native took notice of the job Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason was doing — building a program that could compete at a high level in the SEC.
“I had to go back home,” Vaughn said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “Getting away for two years and maturing was good for me. I grew up so close to the campus, and this was the only place I thought about coming to. I wanted to be in the SEC and get a good degree.”
Vaughn transferred after the 2016 season and had to sit out a year. In 2018 he burst onto the scene as one of the better running backs in the conference, rushing for 1,244 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 1,244 rushing yards was second-most in a single season in Commodore history.
Against Baylor in the Texas Bowl, Vaughn rushed for 243 yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. That performance left him with a tough decision: Go to the NFL or run it back with his Vanderbilt teammates for one final time.
“I sat down and talked to my mom and Coach Mason, but I felt like I still had things to prove on the college level,” Vaughn said. “I feel like I can break records. I want to work on the things people are saying I’m not good at like pass blocking and pass catching. I’m going to prove the doubters and naysayers wrong.”
Vaughn’s decision to stay will be vital for Mason, who enters his sixth season as head coach.
“Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a young man who is prideful about his city,” Mason said. “He’s prideful about being a competitor. He wants to be the best at what he does. Ke’Shawn proved, when he stepped onto the field a year ago, that he’s one of the best backs in the country. He’s a three-dimensional running back who can run, block, and catch. I mean, he can do it all.”
Vaughn was not the only Commodore to forgo a chance to play in the NFL. Teammates wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney will also return to give Mason, on paper, his most talented group of skill players since he has been at the helm.
Lipscomb says eyes have always been on the running back since he got on campus and that his success has been a long time coming.
“We knew the kind of player he was in the Big 10,” Lipscomb said. “He is a baller. After he sat out that year, it was time to roll, and since the day he stepped into our program, he has made us better.”