FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys kicked off their training camp return to The Star in Frisco, Texas after spending about a month in Oxnard, California, and their fans were fired up to see the Silver and Blue. However, the loudest chanting and screaming wasn't for face-of-the-franchise quarterback Dak Prescott. It wasn't for two-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons either.
The diehard Cowboys faithful who showed up to watch Tuesday night's 6 p.m. practice released their loudest, full-throated roar for Deuce Vaughn, the Cowboys' 5-foot-6, 176-pound rookie running back the team selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft out of Kansas State.
During a red zone carry, Vaughn utilized his patented cutback move to blow past defenders and prance into the end zone. This play led to almost every fan inside Ford Center to bellow "Deuuuuuuuuce!" While it may have given many first-year players goosebumps to hear that type of reaction in one of their earliest exposures to their new fans, Vaughn didn't think much of it.
"I've never been an in-the-moment type of guy," Vaughn said Tuesday after practice. "Any time that we finish a game, I'm just getting ready for the next one. It's been really cool to have the type of [positive] feedback from the fans and have all this love, but I also understand that this is just the preseason. This upcoming game [their preseason finale Saturday] is the next biggest one. That's the one on my schedule that's circled. I'm just doing everything I can right now to be able to go out there and be prepared."
It's not just Cowboys fans excited about Vaughn. Head coach Mike McCarthy showered him with praise after a strong preseason debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars: 62 scrimmage yards on 11 touches, including a four-yard rushing touchdown. On Saturday night in Seattle, he produced the game's signature play, utilizing a perfect spin move to waltz into the end zone untouched for a 14-yard rushing touchdown.
Vaughn likely won't need to play much in the Cowboys' preseason finale as he's shown his game translates to the NFL. Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is already pounding the table for Vaughn to get the football over two weeks away from the team's 2023 opener on "Sunday Night Football" at the New York Giants.
"He's [Vaughn] got a very unique problem for tacklers," Jones said Tuesday. "It's unique. Its effective and we've all seen it up to this point on how it can be effective at this level. He's very unique in making them miss. We should incorporate him in everything that we can do to win. That doesn't mean he's going to be out here carrying the ball 30 times a game at all. He's very capable of uniquely doing things out there that's the best way for us to try to get first downs or the best way for us to score it is. I'm impressed with how unique he is as anybody we've had through here."
Prescott echoed Jones' sentiments on Thursday, even campaigning for the fun-sized running back to get carries in between the tackles.
"He can bring a lot to this offense, he's a playmaker and not just a gadget guy," Prescott said Thursday, via The Athletic. "He's not just a guy you want to get out of the backfield into space. We've seen that he can run between the tackles. He's probably using that height to his advantage. Everybody gets criticized for something, so that's what they've picked for him. But I'm sure he's used that to be something on his armor that he wants to prove people wrong. I know he'll do that. He's a hell of a player. He approaches the game the right way. Young guy but acts like he's been in this league for a while. I'm excited for all that he's going to bring to this team."
How will defenses adjust to Vaughn's unorthodox physique? Only time will tell.
"Personally, I don't know," Vaughn said when asked how he anticipates defenses to game plan for his size, or lack thereof. "I wish I could give you an answer on that. It's just one of those things as time goes on and we get some more film and study a little bit more [I would be able to tell]. I feel like we have a great offensive coaching staff and a great team here. Whatever gets thrown at us, something the defense does, we're going to have a great game plan. We have the guys on the field to move forward and execute."
Vaughn is competing with undrafted Malik Davis, undrafted Rico Dowdle and journeyman Ronald Jones to earn touches in relief of Tony Pollard, the Cowboys' clear-cut RB1. Despite the fanfare for the diminutive dynamo, Dowdle is the projected favorite to seize the main backup gig because of his overall training camp efforts.
"I love his running style," McCarthy said of Dowdle Tuesday. "He runs angry. He pass-protects with a lot of urgency. He sticks his nose in there."
The fight for the non-Pollard reps, believe or not, has made the running back room a tight-knit family if you take Vaughn's word for it.
I feel like that competition brings that type of camaraderie because we're all out here playing the same position," Vaughn said. "We're all doing the exact same thing in practice. We're in the film room together. All that time put in together and the camaraderie, those guys are like my big brothers. I say that wholeheartedly. They've taken me and [fullback] Hunter [Luepke] in. They've showed us the ropes; how to do it [be an NFL running back] and how to be professional. I'm super thankful for them."
As for what his role may be during the regular season, after high praise from Jones at the top, Vaughn doesn't have a specific request. He just wants to win.
"I didn't come into it expecting anything," Vaughn said. "I'm not a big statistical guy. I'm not a big, I guess, goal guy. I just want to make an impact that I could for myself, whatever that was, to help this team win and help this team be successful, that's what I wanted to do. For it to start off like this is really good. ... It's all about what you do ahead, in these next upcoming days and this upcoming game."