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Vanderbilt’s Tim Horton on Ke’Shawn Vaughn: ‘He was a pro, before he became a pro.’

Some insight from Vaughn’s collegiate position coach

NCAA Football: UNLV at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ke’Shawn Vaughn spent two years as a member of the Illinois Fighting Illini football program before deciding to transfer to the SEC. After sitting out the 2017 season, he picked up his college career with the Vanderbilt Commodores rushing for more than 1,200-yards in 2018.

Vaughn returned to get his degree (which he completed in December) and finished his football career with over 3,000-yards rushing and had his best year as a receiver in 2019 with 28 receptions totalling 270-yards and a touchdown.

In his final season, he had the benefit of coaching from Vanderbilt’s then new running back coach, Tim Horton. Horton has been coaching in the SEC for going on thirteen years entering 2020, and has mentored the likes of Darren McFadden, Kerryon Johnson and former Bucs running back, Peyton Barber.

So he’s seen what effective running backs look like, and knows what they need to make it to the NFL. Something Vaughn accomplished this past weekend when he was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the third-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Speaking with Bucs Nation, and on the Locked On Bucs Podcast, coach Horton shared his thoughts about Vaughn from when he himself arrived to the program one year after the running back had the best statistical season of his career.

“He had a tremendous Junior season, and Vanderbilt ended up going to the Texas Bowl and playing Baylor in the bowl game,” said Horton. “Ke’Shawn had a tremendous bowl game, he had well over 200-yards against a good Baylor team, and so I was really looking forward to working with him..”

This coach/player duo only had one season together, but from the production on the field to Vaughn’s selection in the third-round, it certainly seems to have been a beneficial one for both parties.

Georgia v Vanderbilt Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Coach Horton shared some of what really stood out about Vaughn as he got to know him, saying, “I felt like I could help him in some phases of the game that I thought he might need some help with, and the thing that really impressed me from the start - and really the whole time I worked with (Ke’Shawn) - is he was very coachable. He wanted to get coached. He was a pro before he became a pro. Whether it was pass blocking, whether it was as a receiver, those were things that he felt like he could improve on and I think by coming back his Senior year those were things that he did improve on.”

Those words will be music to the ears of the Buccaneers, as they have installed an environment of coaching to teach within the franchise. Of course, this mentality and approach to constructing their team is now credited with the great improvement seen in Tampa Bay’s young secondary, and even Ronald Jones, the incumbent Vaughn will be joining now in the NFL.

Very little was known about Vaughn entering draft weekend in most circles of Bucs media and/or fans. Asked about one game he could point to for those looking to learn about the player, coach Horton emphasized his 2019 performance against the Missouri Tigers.

“The moment in time would be the Vanderbilt win last year against the University of Missouri,” Horton said. “Missouri gives us the ball with about eight minutes to go in the game, and we never have to punt. We were able to run the ball and run the clock out, and basically we gave the ball to Ke’Shawn Vaughn every play.”

There are a few statistical performances which stand out in Vaughn’s career. That game specifically saw the running back touch the ball 33 times, collecting 176-yards of offense and scoring two touchdowns. Helping his team defeat the Tigers, ranked 22nd in the country at the time, 21-14.

An underrated part of many prospects is their football IQ. Late in the game against Missouri, Vaughn has a nice run during which he bounces outside for a first down. As the Tigers defense is pursuing him, they’re also forcing him towards the sideline. Instead of allowing himself to be ridden out of bounds for a few extra yards, Vaughn smartly goes down in the field of play, ensuring the clock would run again after the ball was set.

As interesting as it was to speak with coach Horton about Vaughn and what he might bring to the field for the Buccaneers this season, it was fun to discuss some of the coaches own history and how it’s lead to Tampa, Florida as well.

We’ve already mentioned Barber, who spent the first four years of his career with the Bucs before signing with the Washington Redskins this off-season. Coach Horton was also on the Auburn staff however, as Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean were coming through on their way to the NFL.

He shared some thoughts on all of those Auburn Tigers, and he also gave me his take on what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have done this off-season and how it does or doesn’t make them Super Bowl contenders as early as this season.

If Vaughn can build on everything he accomplished with Vanderbilt, then the Bucs certainly appear to have landed a strong addition to their running back room. Catch everything coach Horton had to say about Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and a whole lot more, on the Locked On Bucs Podcast!