Deuce Vaughn is proving that size doesn't matter in the NFL

At 5-foot-5, the elusive rookie RB is giving Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys big options

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Deuce Vaughn is making a big splash this preseason in Big D.
Deuce Vaughn is making a big splash this preseason in Big D.
Photo: Getty (Getty Images)

Deuce Vaughn has Mike McCarthy drawing up a brand new offensive playbook

Deuce Vaughn is the NFL’s most confounding new talent, at least to scouts. He’s a two-time All-American whose stellar collegiate resume was overlooked because of his size. After three seasons, Vaughn somehow ended up under the radar of most front offices. Probably because at 5-foot-5, even on his tip-toes, he was a few inches below the ideal size for an every-down running back prospect. And yet, he finished his final two seasons top 10 in yardage, showcasing a durability that belied his physical stature.

Even still, Vaughn needed a familial connection to slip his foot into the Cowboys door through his father, Jerry Jones’ assistant director of college scouting. Chris Vaughn was the biggest believer in the diminutive running back out of Kansas State. On Draft Day, the Cowboys social team made a whale production out of his father calling Deuce and handing the draft card in. Before his rookie season even begins, the NFL’s shortest player in nearly a century has proven he is more than just a gimmick or a gadget player. Not since Danny Woodhead wrecked defenses in the 2009 preseason has a running back taken the league by storm and changed his circumstances with so much expediency.


Finding Vaughn before he emerges from behind (beneath?) a towering offensive line is akin to tracking down a shipwreck in the ocean. Absent helmet sonar technology, Vaughn keeps defenders touching their toes while he filtered around and underneath traffic to the tune of 64 yards and a pair of touchdowns in two preseason games. In a matter of weeks, Vaughn has not only ensured himself of a spot on the 53-man roster, but he’s practically guaranteed to be utilized as a weapon in some shape or form.


I know it goes against orthodoxy to compare college stats, but one of these is the statistical production for Deuce Vaughn’s sophomore and junior seasons. The other is a rival Big 12 back’s sophomore and junior seasons:

Player A: 3,002 rushing yards and 34 total touchdowns (846 rec. yards)

Player B: 2,707 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns (609 rec. yards)

Player A is Vaughn. Player B is Bijan Robinson, a 6-foot, 215-pound Doak Walker winner, who is arguably the greatest running back prospect in a generation. It would be blasphemous to sit here and compare Robinson to Vaughn’s pro ceilings, but there’s no world in which Player A should have been drafted six rounds behind Player B.

It took heaps of self-confidence for a 5-foot-5 running back to declare for the NFL Draft early. Even Darren Sproles, at 5-foot-6, stayed all four years at Kansas State. Vaughn’s only equivalent in stature has been former Trindon Holliday who spent several seasons as an acclaimed return man and receiver after four years as an LSU Tigers running back.

Vaughn (and Holliday) are tied for the NFL’s shortest players measured since 5-foot-1 Jack Shapiro suited up for the Staten Island Stapletons in 1929.


Vaughn’s low center of gravity and lightning-quick agility combine to make him one of the hardest players for defenses to tackle this preseason – voracious NFL defenders just aren’t used to bite-sized running backs who run that low to the turf. The most fascinating thing about watching Vaughn matriculate through a front seven is that he fits into gaps most running backs wouldn’t dare trespass through. Conversely, the angles defenders have to take in an attempt to tackle Vaughn are downright brutal. Linebackers and defensive tackles in pursuit hover a foot over Vaughn. Would-be tacklers lowering their center of gravity to tackle Vaughn bend their hunchbacks in positions that would make a chiropractor grimace.


Tony Pollard’s grip on the starting job is still intact. However, he may be sharing some of the shine. Vaughn’s emergence has cleared his path to becoming a game-breaking, scatback or No. 2 behind Pollard for America’s Team. This isn’t a fairy tale. Vaughn is exactly where he should have been all along.

Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex