Chicago Colleges: Justan Vaughn

Northwestern's Justan Vaughn talks about playing at Wrigley Field in his weekly video blog.

Video: The Justan Vaughn Show

November, 16, 2010

Justan Vaughn answers fans questions in the latest installment of his video blog.

Northwestern cornerback Justan Vaughn is joined by teammates Quentin Davie and Nate Williams in the latest installment of his video blog.

Northwestern cornerback Justan Vaughn talks with wide receivers Sidney Stewart and Lee Coleman in his weekly video blog.

Northwestern video blog

September, 17, 2010

Northwestern senior Justan Vaughn hosts the weekly video blog.

Vaughn making most of opportunity

September, 10, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. – "Hello, my name is Justan Vaughn, Northwestern senior cornerback."

If Justan Vaughn could, he would go around Ryan Field before Saturday's game with Illinois State, shaking hands and introducing himself to everyone. He wants you to know who he is this season. It's important to him.

After spending a majority of his first four years with the Wildcats in obscurity due to an assortment of injuries, Vaughn is motivated this season -- his final one -- to play at such a level that everyone will know his name.

He began that process Saturday. Making his fourth career start and playing completely healthy for the first time since 2007, Vaughn made six tackles and came up with a key second-half interception to help Northwestern to its win over Vanderbilt.

"Saturday, it was live," said Vaughn, one of Northwestern's most talkative players. "I was out there just happy to be there, but I was so hungry and so anxious to get out there and make a name for myself because I understand people haven't known who I am for these past couple years because I've been on and off the field. I feel like this is my year to let everybody know who I am."

Who Vaughn is has changed over the years, and his injuries have played a major role in that transformation.
Vaughn's string of bad luck began as a freshman during fall camp. He was knocked down during a drill and tried to cushion his fall by putting his right arm out. His momentum was too much, and he dislocated his right elbow on impact. It was the first serious injury of his football career. He would redshirt the year.

Vaughn played an injury-free redshirt freshman season and intercepted his first career pass against Illinois. A year later, Vaughn impressed Northwestern's coaches and was made a starting cornerback to open the season. His joy wouldn't last long as he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery in the Wildcats' second game.

Last season, Vaughn was optimistic to return to form after putting in a long offseason of rehab on his shoulder. Just as he thought he had turned the corner, he began having trouble with his quad and hamstring. He struggled with the pain throughout the season and missed six games due to it.

Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has witnessed other players succumb to the physical and mental adversities Vaughn has experienced.

"I think it's hard mentally because you get frustrated," Hankwitz said. "You think, ‘Hey, I'm going to always be hurt.' You have to get over that. You got to go out and hope the breaks will balance out.

"[Vaughn] had earned the starting job in ‘08. We knew he had that ability. We needed him to step up this year with Sherrick [McManis] graduating. He's worked hard. He had a good spring. We were pleased with the way he played in the opener."

Vaughn never allowed his mind to go to any of those dark places. Naturally an upbeat person, he's always accepted his injuries have happened for a reason.

"Never, ‘Why me?'" Vaughn said. "Despite how bad a deal it is, it's life. Life is going to toss you obstacles that you're going to have to overcome. I took it as a chance to make myself stronger mentally, and just make my character stronger. I really feel that I did that. It especially shows in the way I play, and the way I enjoy the game."
Vaughn's view of football was altered with his injuries. Where he was once took playing it for granted, he now savors every snap, every tackle and especially every interception.

"It's like that old saying, ‘You never truly appreciate something until it's gone,'" Vaughn said. "It's the same thing with the game. When it was away from me, when I was injured for the whole year and the next year when I was in and out, it made me realize how much I care for the game and how fun it was when I was out there. I definitely appreciate being out here.

"It is my last opportunity. I'm trying to make the most of it. The thing is I'm going out there, and I'm just enjoying life. I'm enjoying this football life that I'm blessed to live. It's fun for me every day."