High school football: Versatile Vaughn a Barton recruit

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

By Mike London

CHINA GROVE — Barton College head football coach Chip Hester jokes that there may be arm-wrestling matches between offensive coordinator Landon Mariani and defensive coordinator Treiston Burnette to see who gets the services of recruit Trevor Vaughn.

Vaughn always has been versatile, which is good, but the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Carson senior is sort of a positional tweener, which is bad.

Vaughn can handle a variety of duties on a football field and is equally proficient at offense (receiver) and defense (safety). That complicates things. In football, you really don’t want to be labeled as a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. The task for Barton is to figure out the one thing that Vaughn should focus on and to let him shine.

“Looking at our roster, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back, but a lot of those returners are seniors,” Hester said. “So where does Trevor fit best? It certainly looks like he can help us most at safety right now, so that’s where he’ll get started. We really like him. He’s smart, he’s physical, he’s got ball skills and he can move around pretty good.”

Vaughn debuted for the Carson Cougars on the varsity as a freshman. He became a three-year starter, mostly on the defensive side of the ball, although there were enough big plays when he appeared on offense, including two touchdown catches his senior year, that fans always wondered what he might accomplish if he worked full-time at that job.

“A lot of people have told me it’s not that difficult for a receiver to transition to playing DB, but it’s much harder to go the other way,” Vaughn said. “I started out believing I’d be a receiver, but I’ve played for running teams that felt like I’d be more valuable on the defensive side.”

Mount Pleasant coach Daniel Crosby, who coached Vaughn in his early days with Carson, and Jonathan Lowe, who coached Vaughn the last two years, always had plenty of nice things to say about Vaughn, a strong student with an even stronger work ethic. Vaughn has the speed that’s needed to play Division II football and he’ll strike people. He’s never shied away from contact.

“The day I met him I knew he was a special player,” Lowe said. “And he always was willing to play wherever we needed him to play.”

Vaughn, who played in the Tiki Bowl all-star game in Hawaii following his senior football season, was recruited by a host of Division II and Division III schools, although his final decision boiled down to Catawba, where his father, Jeff, played basketball — and Barton.

Vaughn liked Catawba and enjoyed his visit to Catawba, but Barton was going to be hard to beat out, as the Vaughns and the Hesters go way back. Two sets of Vaughn and Hester sisters played on volleyball teams together as they grew up in Rowan County, so the Vaughns and Hesters spent a lot of time in gyms, restaurants and car pools.

Laura Vaughn and Morgan Hester were teammates on great Carson teams.

Carson’s Jaden Vaughn and West Rowan’s Tori Hester went separate ways in high school, but they played on elite travel teams as teammates.

“Trevor’s sisters and my daughters were in an awful lot of volleyball games together,” Coach Hester said. “So I got to know the Vaughn family very well and I’ve known them for a long time. Great people.”

Vaughn has memories of those days.

“I remember throwing footballs around with the volleyball dads,” Vaughn said. “I’ve known Coach Hester forever. He’s someone I’ve always respected.”

Vaughn grew up strong and fast, although not nearly as tall as his father. He discovered a passion for football early.

He made his own way in his own sport. There was less pressure than there would have been in basketball. If he were a basketball player, people would expect Jeff Vaughn’s son to walk into a gym and start lighting it up. In football, he always was able to operate under the radar. He put in the work in the gym and on the track and steadily got better.

He did the job in the classroom, made him himself recruitable and was excited when offers started trickling in, and then pouring.

“It still came down to Catawba and Barton,” Vaughn said. “I believe I could have been successful at Catawba, but when I visited Barton, it felt like it was the right place. I met players there that I was very impressed with. They’re turning out some really good people. I met some people that I wanted to be like.”

Vaughn believes he has figured out what he wants to do with his life already. He thinks coaching will be his future. He wants to be a guy like Crosby, like Lowe, like Hester, men who are turning out future good husbands and fathers while they’re busy winning football games.

“I helped coach spring drills and I’m planning to help coach Carson workouts this summer until I report to Barton,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn will be part of an incoming class that Hester is proud of. It includes Braylon Canales, a 300-pound offensive lineman from Robinson, A.L. Brown linebacker Todd Massey and Blake Barbee, an offensive lineman from Northwest Cabarrus, whom Vaughn plans to room with.

Hester likes all of those guys, but he can barely contain his excitement over signing Reidsville’s record-setting quarterback Al Lee, a special athlete Hester believes will be a difference-maker for Barton as the program transitions into a new era. Barton will play in the South Atlantic Conference for the final time in 2024, but it will be part of a new Conference Carolinas football league in 2025, joining UNC Pembroke, Chowan, Erskine, North Greenville and Shorter.

Vaughn may be making an impact by the time Barton is playing in its new league. His earliest path to playing time probably will be on special teams.

“I think that’s a very likely scenario for him,” Hester said. “His first year of college ball, he’ll be doing a lot of tackling drills and working on taking the best angles. He’s a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football player. We think he’ll be able to fit right in.”