FRISCO, Texas — When Deuce Vaughn touches the field for the first time in the NFL later this year, the 5-foot-6 Kansas State product will immediately etch his name among the league's shortest players of all-time.
But as Vaughn did for three years for the Wildcats where he accumulated over 5,000 all-purpose yards on his way to earning two Consensus All-America honors, he will continue to use his size as an advantage to add an explosive weapon to the Cowboys offense, no matter how many people doubt his potential.
"It's more of a chip thing," Vaughn said when asked about the size doubters. "When you get to college, people start to doubt what you can do because of your size, it just adds to the chip on my shoulder. It's why I'm the hardest working guy you'll ever meet."
Throughout his college career in Manhattan, Kan., Vaughn drew comparisons to a fellow Wildcat weapon from 20 years ago that also had his fair share of size doubters in Darren Sproles, who also stood at 5-foot-6. The two connected back in 2021 and have been in steady contact throughout Vaughn's journey through college and now into the NFL.
"I got to meet Darren my sophomore year at Kansas State, and he's been someone that's been in my corner ever since," Vaughn said. "Any time I can be in the same sentence as a guy like Darren Sproles, a guy that played 15 years in this league, top five in all-purpose yards in this league at my size, that's something I take seriously every single day. I've been trying to pick his brain going into this rookie camp and going into OTAs about what I can do to give myself an edge."
Vaughn has studied Sproles for much of his football career and has drawn inspiration from his versatility as an offensive and special teams weapon at his size.
"His versatility in the backfield, being able to return punts, return kicks, run inside and outside," Vaughn said. "Almost being like a Swiss Army knife for his team. The biggest thing I got from him was toughness. When you're at this size at 5'6", you have to be tough."
"You're in there with some of the biggest guys in the world, you gotta have that mental toughness to play an 18-week season and then beyond if you're a really good football team."
After being drafted last month in one of the best stories to come out of the entire NFL Draft, one of the first people to congratulate Vaughn was his newfound mentor in Sproles, and that has continued with added advice early in his NFL career.
"Coming in and not wavering any confidence, even if you are the smallest guy in the locker room," Vaughn said about Sproles' early advice. "Whenever you're walking with the rookie class, they're head and shoulders above you, but just understanding that you are here for a reason and to just go to work and show everybody what you can do."