Back in the 2014 recruiting cycle, the Vanderbilt coaching staff had targeted Pearl-Cohn High School star running back and one of the top prospects in the state Ke’Shawn Vaughn. At the time he was a very decorated high school recruit, when he won a Class AA Mr. Football Back of the Year award and was named Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year after rushing for 2,646 yards and 45 touchdowns on 231 carries during his senior season in which he led the Firebirds to the 2014 Class 4A state semifinals. Even though the Commodores made a huge push and effort to land Vaughn, he decided to leave the state and head to Illinois.
Now, a few years later, in early January Vaughn made a tough decision to transfer from Illinois due to the lack of carries he was getting. But when he did make his transfer official, his hometown team and Vanderbilt Commodores was one of the first schools that Vaughn had contact with and heavy interest with. After an official visit trip to Nashville this past weekend, the Illinois transfer decided he wanted to return home.
“It was just the best place to come back to for me, the staff opened me into Vanderbilt with opens arms,” Vaughn told VandyMania. “It just felt like it was a good fit. It was a school that I had a had heavy interested in when I first transferred. The hometown factor wasn’t a huge factor for me, it was more of the education and athletics they had. Also, just being able to live in the Nashville area and compete for a starting job made it an easy decision.”
Due to the need for offensive playmakers in the coming years with senior running back Ralph Webb, a 1,000 yard rusher, leaving after this upcoming season. Derek Mason and his staff decided to host Vaughn for an official visit back in his hometown where his journey originally started.
“It was all a business trip, it was an awesome visit. It really gave me that college hometown feel when I was on my visit. Knowing that I can live and play for a college in the city of Nashville was too good to pass up. I got a chance to see the campus life and I got to continue to get more familiar with the campus. Nothing stood out on my visit, that hadn’t stood out before.”
Despite Vaughn deciding to leave the state of Tennessee and start his career at Illinois, which left a sting with the Vanderbilt coaching staff for a short period of time. The staffs constant relationship building and respectfulness towards Vaughn and his decision played a huge factor in his decision to finish the rest of his career out in Nashville. That was put on display when Vaughn bumped into a coach on the Commodores coaching staff when he was home from college break.
“Most of the coaching staff was there back when I was getting recruited out of high school, so the relationship was already there. They understood I wanted to play close to home and other things that I wanted. I have always stayed close to the coaching staff even when I bumped into them back at home.”
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound sophomore, finished his career at Illinois rushing for 1,024 and 9 touchdowns on 217 carries while also posting 208 yards on 25 receptions over 22 career games for the Illini. Despite his early success at Illinois, Vaughn is looking to take this program to new heights and narrow his focus.
“I will bring just a kid who can make plays with the ball in his hand, a hard worker, and I will do and bring everything I can to help my new team get to a national championship. This year I have to sit out, but I will continue to work hard and I want to be prepared for the next season. So I will have to have my grades high.”