“Growing up in Georgia, it was always a dream to some day have a chance to play for your hometown team,” says West Georgia senior center Harley Vaughan, a two-time All-American.
That dream is now a reality. Vaughan, Dawson County native (Class of 2013) has received an invite to the Atlanta Falcons Rookie Mini Camp in the days following the 2018 NFL Draft. While Vaughan’s dreams were to have a “chance” to play, he can take that a step further with an impressive showing once he gets to Flowery Branch.
“I’m hoping to show the Falcons that they made a good decision by giving me a chance, and proving to them I belong. A lot of people have this perception of guys coming from smaller schools. I’m going out there to show them that it doesn’t matter where you came from — if you can play then you can play.”
That attitude has gotten the former Tigers star a long way. His hard work he put in while playing under the bright Friday night lights in Dawsonville paid off.
“[This] lets players in Dawson know that regardless of what people tell you, if you really want something bad enough and are willing to work for it you can achieve your dreams,” states Vaughan. “I didn’t have many offers coming out of high school, and when I went to UWG people were saying I probably wouldn’t play a lot, but I just blocked all that out got to work and the rest is history.”
Vaughan was redshirted when he got to West Georgia, but as he stated, the rest is history. As a redshirt freshman in 2014, the lineman started as a left tackle on the NCAA Semifinals team that shattered the offensive rushing record book at UWG. He moved to the center position as a sophomore, helping the Wolves to another record-setting offensive year and another trip to the Semifinals.
Vaughan started every game since his freshman year, setting the UWG record for most games played and starts in a career. He found a home at center, with every play starting with him snapping to the quarterback. He earned All-American honors as a junior in 2016 and again as a senior in 2017. He also earned First Team All-Gulf South Conference honors in 2016 and 2017, and was Second Team in 2015 as a sophomore.
Regardless of the success, Vaughan stays grounded, setting an example for others to follow in his footsteps.
“For me, it’s just a humbling experience to be in the position I’m in. I don’t take anything for granted and every accomplishment/accolade I earn shows me that hard work pays off. I also know without my family, friends, and coaches who have helped me along the way, none of this would have been possible.”
There was a bit of anxious waiting for Vaughan and his family throughout the NFL Draft week and in the days after.
“When I got the invite, it was exciting. It was also a relief because I didn’t really know what was going to happen or where I was going to go, since I talked to several teams days before the draft.”
Be on the lookout for Harley Vaughan at Rookie Mini Camp, as he could become the second Dawson County Tigers football player to make it to the NFL. Class of 2006 punter/kicker/quarterback Chad Cunningham also played under coach Jeff Lee at Dawson County before going to Tennessee and ultimately to the NFL Tennessee Titans as a punter. He still holds the Tigers record for longest punt (71 yards).
Vaughan’s senior year at Dawson County under Lee saw the Tigers go 6-5 and earn a state playoff appearance as well as a brief #10-state ranking. In his four seasons at Dawson County, Vaughan led the Tigers to 15 wins and was instrumental in taking a 2009 team that went 1-9 to a 6-win playoff team in 2012.