As a child growing up in Hamilton, Ontario, Justin Vaughn dreamed of playing professional football just like his father, a former running back for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League.
On May 7, Vaughn’s dream came true. The Rose Hill senior was drafted in the 5th round by the Tiger Cats, as the 38th overall pick in the draft.
“I’m excited to be heading home and playing for my hometown team,” said Vaughn.
At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Vaughn said he’d always been told by friends and family that he had the size to go pro, and his mix of size and athleticism earned him a scholarship offer from Fordham. (He impressed a coach during recruiting by dunking a basketball despite the frame of a defensive lineman.) By his junior season, he was a starter for the Rams, but it was during his senior year last season when he really began to think a pro career could become a reality.
“Senior year is when you realize, man, if I want to keep playing football, I’ve gotta do something. And it just clicked.”
He says his attitude began to change before Fordham played Lafayette on Oct. 8—a game his family had travelled down from Canada to attend.
“That one day, I woke up, and something was just different,” he said. “Like, I want to do well for my little brothers, show them that they can come out of Canada too, and go to the NCAA. I started playing for something more than myself that day, and that just changed my mindset for the rest of the season.” Vaughn recorded five solo tackles in that game (and six overall), and his confidence continued to grow as the season went on and he turned in one stellar performance after the next. “I started realizing, this is actually a real possibility.”
During his senior year, he recorded 40 tackles, including a team-high 11 for a loss, and was named the Rams’ defensive player of the year. His standout play also earned him First-Team All-Patriot League honors. “I didn’t want to let the opportunity slip away from me,” he said. “I just did everything I could on and off the field to be productive and help the team.”
Head football coach Andrew Breiner said that Vaughn “went from a guy that had tools and was told he had the tools necessary to be a great player, to a guy that finally believed.”
“When you see a guy like Justin start to have success, you see his confidence grow.”
Breiner said he was impressed with how Vaughn closed out the season, as the team made its case for a postseason berth that ultimately didn’t materialize. Over the Rams’ final three games, Vaughn tallied 15 tackles, including six in an outstanding performance against Colgate.
Now, as Vaughn enters the next phase of his career, Breiner believes his skill set will translate well to the pro game. “He’s a big guy that’s really athletic, can make explosive movements, and cover ground quickly on the football field. Those guys are hard to find.”
–Joe DeLessio, FCLC ’06