IRVING, Texas -- Few things excite fans in training camp more than the play of an unsung quarterback fighting to make a team.
In 2003 and ‘04, Tony Romo was that guy for the Dallas Cowboys. He was the unknown guy from Eastern Illinois who blossomed into a Pro Bowler and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL after three years as a backup and even a backup to the backup.
Matt Moore did it in 2007 for the Cowboys. Rudy Carpenter was that guy in 2009. Last year it was Alex Tanney.
This year it is Dustin Vaughan, who is more like Romo and Tanney, coming from West Texas A&M with a YouTube hit. Tanney’s video was that of a trick shot artist. Vaughan chose a Christmas sweater and less-than-stellar form in a spoof of his résumé.
In two preseason games, Vaughan has completed 10 of 21 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. He has looked the part, but is he Romo or Moore, who went on to start games for the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins, or is he Carpenter or Tanney?
“We’re going to see a lot of him these next two ballgames I’m sure, and we’ll see how that plays out,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said after Saturday’s game. “But he could very well [make the final roster as the No. 3 quarterback].”
Vaughan has a big arm, as his 24-yard completion down the sideline to Jamar Newsome attested. He also has an understanding of the game with his 5-yard TD to Newsome after the Ravens stacked the line for the run. In his first preseason work against the San Diego Chargers, he impressed with his ability to move around and buy time.
“I think the main thing, the way to kind of stay sane through this entire process is you’ve got to take it one day at a time,” Vaughan said.
He likely won’t see much or any action Saturday against the Miami Dolphins with the starters expected to play into the second half. He could see a ton of action in the preseason finale vs. the Denver Broncos on Aug. 28. The conundrum the Cowboys could face is if Vaughan plays too well and a team claims him should they try to sneak him through waivers.
The Cowboys have not kept three quarterbacks on the active roster since Stephen McGee in 2011 joined Romo and Jon Kitna. For as well as Vaughan has played, the Cowboys could have too many needs elsewhere on the roster, especially on defense, to keep a third quarterback this year behind Romo and Brandon Weeden.
In order for Vaughan to make it to the practice squad, he would have to clear waivers after the final cuts. Moore didn’t in 2007. Tanney did last year.
“I appreciate absolutely any opportunity that I can get,” Vaughan said. “Whether that’s coming in being the third quarterback or on the practice squad, it’s my dream to be in the NFL and right now I’m trying to make this team and however I can do it I just need to take every opportunity.”