Dustin Vaughan stunned a lot of people last year.
An undrafted free agent out of a Division II football program, Vaughan became the first player to force the Dallas Cowboys to hold onto three quarterbacks sine 2011. He didn’t see any time outside of the preseason but the move was enough to send expectations skyrocketing this year. Now, Vaughan is simply trying to live up to them.
Here’s what you need to know about the second-year player and his battle to keep his job:
1. Vaughan Is Listed as the Third Quarterback on the Cowboys Depth Chart
Dallas released its first unofficial depth chart of the season just a few days before the team’s preseason opener against San Diego and Vaughan, who did not play a regular season snap last year, is listed as the team’s third quarterback.
It’ll be interesting to see where Vaughan falls, or even rises, on the chart over the next few preseason games. He served as the Cowboys fourth quarterback during the team’s inter-squad scrimmage last weekend, with rookie Jameill Showers taking reps ahead of him, but head coach Jason Garrett said the move was nothing to read into.
2. He Was Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2014
Vaughan went into the 2014 NFL Draft feeling confident. He was going to get a call. After all, he had been contacted by 20 different teams before the weekend-long event and was certain his phone would ring. It did not. At least not when he expected it to.
Instead of being drafted, Vaughan was signed to a free agent contract with the Cowboys. His phone rang about five minutes after the draft ended and Dallas offered. It didn’t take long for Vaughan’s disappointment to disappear:
Yeah, it was very short-lived. All of those guys expressed their interest in me coming to their organization, so I was definitely honored to have that opportunity to talk to them and see how interested they were. So it was definitely an easy decision from then on.
Although Vaughan didn’t play in a regular season game last year, he left an impression with the Cowboys and, most importantly, the coaching staff. He played well during training camp and his performance forced Dallas to carry a third quarterback for the first time since 2011.
3. Vaughan Played College Football at West Texas A&M University
Following a standout high school career, where he was a quarterback and punter for the Corpus Christi Calallen, Vaughan committed to play football at West Texas A&M.
While at college, Vaughan played in 30 games with 25 starts and finished with a 62.5 completion percentage. His 8,124 passing yards were the third most in school history and he was twice was named the men’s Lone Star Conference Fred Jacoby Academic Athlete of the Year.
4. He Has Drawn Comparisons to Tony Romo
Talk about some high expectations. He hasn’t made his pro debut, at least in the regular season, but Vaughan is already drawing some serious comparisons to Cowboys starter Tony Romo. No pressure or anything.
The comparisons start off innocently enough. Both Romo and Vaughan went to small colleges, getting their start in under-the-radar programs and going undrafted. Vaughan also has some serious size, something the Cowboys have touted as one of his best attributes since signing him last year. Owner Jerry Jones told reporters:
For 6-5, I’m particularly impressed with his feet. His feet are quicker than they ought to be for 6-5. I liked what I saw out there. We know he’s got that arm. We’re going to see a lot of him these next two [preseason] games, I’m sure, and we’ll see how that plays out.
Now it’s up to Vaughan to make those comparisons a reality. It has not been a breakout training camp for the second-year player and if he’s going to keep his spot on the active roster, Vaughan needs to start living up to those lofty expectations; soon.
5. Vaughan is Expected to See Plenty of Snaps During the Preseason
According to reports, Tony Romo won’t play in the Cowboys first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night, meaning Brandon Weeden will get the start under center. So what does that mean to Vaughan? Time.
Weeden likely won’t stay in the game too long and that leaves the door wide open for Vaughan and rookie Jameill Showers to battle it out on the gridiron. Dallas carried a third quarterback last year, Vaughan, but with a jam-packed roster this season, there are some questions about cuts and both quarterbacks are going to need to prove themselves in the preseason.
Vaughan especially needs a good showing in the preseason after an up-and-down training camp that has been filled with accuracy issues.