Like fa­ther, like son

Justin Vaughn be­comes a Tiger-Cat, just like his dad in 1989

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - STEVE MIL­TON

Justin Vaughn sat on the couch in his dorm room at Ford­ham Univer­sity in New York star­ing at his lap­top. Ev­ery 30 sec­onds, the CFL Draft Tracker would re­fresh and he would hope to see his name. It was a slow and ag­o­niz­ing process.

More than 750 kilo­me­tres away, Vaughn’s fa­ther, Mike, sat on the couch in his fam­ily home on the West Moun­tain watch­ing the TSN livestream of the draft. He was ner­vous, too. So to pass the time, fa­ther and son chat­ted away on Skype.

Fol­low­ing along on his phone, Justin’s 15-year-old brother Quincy fig­ured it out first.

“Hey, dad, I think Justin just got drafted by the Ti­cats,” he said. Soon, they were all in tears. *****

Mike Vaughn came to Hamil­ton in 1989 to play foot­ball, spend­ing the lat­ter part of the sea­son on the Ti­cats prac­tice ros­ter as a backup run­ning back. He played in one game, against Win­nipeg, and was re­leased the fol­low­ing sea­son.

But in­stead of go­ing home Colorado, Vaughn stayed in Canada.

“I met my wife, fell in love, started a ca­reer and have been here ever since,” Vaughn said.

“I loved the coun­try, loved the city, and peo­ple treated me well so I de­cided to stay.”

Three sons would fol­low, and they all found their way to foot­ball. Mike was in­volved in Justin’s devel­op­ment at ev­ery level, in­clud­ing home work­outs so gru­elling they’d spend the rest of the evening in an un­com­fort­able si­lence.

“My dad knows what it takes and he put me through a lot of stuff dur­ing those work­outs, and I’d be so an­gry I just didn’t want to talk to him,” Justin says now. “I was just a stub­born kid who thought he knew what the world was.

“He wanted this for me but he never pushed me. He showed the way but it was up to me to fol­low through.”

De­spite a stel­lar ca­reer as a line­backer at Sir Al­lan MacNab se­condary school, it took a year at the sports acad­emy, Canada Prep, in Ni­a­gara Falls to get Justin on the radar at NCAA pro­grams. It re­quired an in­vest­ment by the fam­ily and it came af­ter a tear­ful con­ver­sa­tion in which Justin told his fa­ther that play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball was the thing he wanted most.

“It was ful­fill­ing for me be­cause I know what his dream was,” Mike said. “I’ve seen the work and the sac­ri­fice, his ded­i­ca­tion to his dream.”

That ex­tra sea­son led to a schol­ar­ship of­fer from Ford­ham, where Vaughn blos­somed into a dom­i­nant force along the de­fen­sive line (grow­ing to six-foot-five, 285, didn’t hurt, ei­ther.) As a se­nior last sea­son, Vaughn was named first team All-Pa­triot League and the Rams’ de­fen­sive player of the year.

Vaughn comes to a Ti­cat squad with plenty of tal­ent at the de­fen­sive tackle po­si­tion, in­clud­ing peren­nial all-star Ted Lau­rent and fourthyear man Mike Atkin­son as well as young­ster Evan Gill. The team will likely start at least one Cana­dian at the po­si­tion, and pos­si­bly two.

“Given his stature, I’m hop­ing that Ted is will­ing to teach me some of the tricks that he’s learned over the years,” Vaughn said. “I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

With just weeks be­fore train­ing camp, Vaughn will fin­ish up his de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy and an­thro­pol­ogy — he’s got an exam and two es­says left — be­fore head­ing ... well, home. “Com­ing full cir­cle isn’t some­thing many peo­ple get to ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “It’s a once-in-a-life­time feel­ing. Be­yond hap­pi­ness.”


Ford­ham Univer­sity’s Justin Vaughn was drafted by the team his dad played one game for, in 1989: the Hamil­ton Tiger-Cats.

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