Old Dominion knew that they had a special player in the making when wide receiver Antonio Vaughan decided to play for the upstart program.
The Ahoskie, NC native had schools like Duke, East Carolina and North Carolina come calling. That's a big deal, especially when those three combined have been fielding a program much, much longer than the Monarchs. But the multi-sport athlete from Hertford County, named the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald male athlete of the year after his senior season of high school, chose the school north of the border.
The Monarchs reaped the benefits right away. Vaughan racked up 520 yards and five touchdowns on 47 catches in his redshirt freshman year. It's been a increased and consistent output since: 60 catches for 885 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012 en route to second-team All-CAA honors, followed by a 2013 season with 60 catches, 843 yards and nine touchdowns.
In a player like Vaughan, the Monarchs enjoy an athlete that can bring many tools to the table. In addition to his receiving stats, he started twice at running back and ran for 92 yards and a touchdown, with his longest run being 34 yards. He also completed a 32-yard pass against East Carolina. The Louisville Sports Commission placed him on the initial watch list for the Paul Hornung Award, given to college football's most versatile player.
However, 2014 will be different. Most importantly, it will be the team's first as an FBS program, so Vaughan will have to adjust to much tougher defenses than he saw at the FCS level. Another reason: the turnover at the position. Larry Pinkard, the team's leading receiver in 2013 (68 catches, 1,020 yards, nine touchdowns) is gone due to a violation of team rules. Four other wideouts, including Jaquail Bailey (who appeared in every game last year) and three-star JUCO transfer Jusse Yorke, were also booted.
That clears the way for Vaughan to be Taylor Heinicke's number-one weapon this year. But if the past few years have been any indication, he's ready to go.