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January 18, 2012This week, Jayhawk Slant catches up with former Kansas wide receiver Willie Vaughn. He played at Kansas from 1985 - 1988. In his four seasons at Kansas, Vaughn caught 133 receptions for 2,266 yards with 17 touchdowns. Vaughn held the Kansas record for career receiving yards and touchdowns for 20 years that would later be broken by Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.
After finishing up at Kansas, Vaughn spent several years in the CFL and had a brief stint with the Philadelphia Eagles. After knee injuries forced him out of football, Vaughn became a police officer in his hometown of Kansas City, Kansas until 2004 when he left to work in copier sales. Vaughn is currently an Independent Sales Rep for UDP and works with his former teammate at Kansas Arnold Snell.
Talk about your experience as a police officer?
There was a lot of adrenaline and it was fun. There were good days and there were bad days. We made a lot of friends and contacts. I would say the hardest part was growing up in Kansas City that you had to police people you went to school with or having to deal with their kids. It was kind of like policing a big family.
Police work will tire you down. In sales I am free to go where I want to and can meet more people, especially Jayhawk people. It is more of my speed.
Talk about what you do in your current job and what your future goals are?
A lot of what we do is cold calling and our goal is setting up appointments. Then we make proposals and see if we can save them money and get their business. In the future we just want to keep growing our business. We recently just got KU on so we serve them and we are pretty pleased about that. Me and Arnold started our own version of the business and that has been going well.
Back when you were a high school senior, what made you want to go to KU?
I was recruited by Nebraska, Miami and a lot of different places but I knew I was going to Kansas my tenth grade year. At Wyandotte High School the field is named after Roy Edwards, he went to Kansas and he and my dad are good friends. All he talked about was KU and it was kind of a hometown thing. I remember I had a couple of friends at Schlagel, Marlon Washington and Leonard Thomas and we were all going to go to KU but Marlon went to USC and Leonard went to Oklahoma so they reneged on me but it all worked out for everybody.
What was Mike Gottfried like as a coach?
Coach Gottfried when he was recruiting you and you get on the team was almost like your dad because your parents entrust you with him and he develops you as a person and a man. When Coach Gottfried left he actually offered me to come with him to Pitt. At the time I was a quarterback trying to work my way up the depth chart. One of the reasons I stayed was there was another player at KU from Pennsylvania and one day after we both had good games, I had my family there and he didn't have anybody there for him. I realized if I went to Pitt then I wouldn't have my family at the games. It didn't matter who the coach was I was going to stay at Kansas because I was a hometown kid.
I would say Coach Gottfried is one of the better coaches I have ever played for and I had some great position coaches as well like Robert Ford who is a position coach with Texas Southern right now. By far my absolute favorite coach was Coach John Hadl my senior year. We still talk to this day and he is just a great person.
What was it like playing for Glenn Mason your senior year?
Looking back, I think Coach Mason is one of the best coaches that nobody really knows about. I don't know if he wants to get back into coaching but I see all these vacancies and I think any school that hires him would be proud of that hire. He is a great person. I am good friends with Reggie Mitchell who was on that staff and we try and talk about once a week, and I also talk with Chris Howard who is an Associate AD. You know how KU is, it's one big family so once you are in you don't really go outside the box. Once you are a Jayhawk it is a lifelong commitment.
What are your thoughts on Charlie Weis?
Charlie Weis is coming in and he is going to do what Charlie Weis wants to do. He is bringing in guys he has known for a long time plus a guy like Clint Bowen. I don't know how many ties Mangino built up when he was at KU but they were winning Orange Bowls when he was there. Then some bad things happened but I believe all the Mangino issues have blown over and Weis has a clean slate and has a really great opportunity especially with his experience coaching in the NFL ranks, and at Notre Dame and Florida. I believe a coach should get at least four years so he has a chance to be with the incoming freshmen he recruits until they are seniors. Again, I had three different coaches in four years and that's three different systems a kid ages 18 to 22 has to learn. Coaching is great but I think sometimes schools get too caught up in the business aspect and forget that these 18-23 years are what makes the university run. It's still about going to school and getting a great education while building lifelong friendships.
What would you have done different at KU
if you had to do it over again?
I would've tried to catch a few more balls so I could've been an All-American so I could've gotten my name in the Ring of Honor. I was proud that my receiving record held for 20 something years until it was broken by Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier which was great. Looking back I think I would've tried to apply myself more. If I had to do it over though I would absolutely pick the University of Kansas. I have two daughters there right now and one is a freshman and one a junior. They are excelling academically and glad to be apart of Jayhawk nation. Also, I still have ambitions to coach but even at 44-years-old if Coach Weis needs an extra special teams coach or anything at all I am free[laughs]. I am 30 minutes away but I can be there in 26.
What is one story you remember that affected the team that wasn't talked about?
I remember when we opened the season against Auburn in 1988. Coach Mason didn't want us to stay in Auburn so we stayed in another city. Anyway, the planes at the airport landed right next to the busses. I remember I was sitting right in the front of the bus with Arnold, and to this day I don't know what the bus driver was thinking but he drove that bus right into the plane and tore half the bus apart. I remember we just said, 'look out' and that's all I remember. I just couldn't believe how our bus driver missed a whole plane. It was just straight into the wing of the airplane so it was a good thing we all ducked or else it would've been tragic. Then on the way to the hotel we were down to two busses and the second bus had a flat tire so we had 90 people crammed into one bus. That's a story we still talk about. Unfortunately we still had to play Auburn and that wasn't a good game.
I also remember from that game we ran out of the tunnel onto the field and we look over and our starting safety was hyperventilating. I believe his name was Jason Priest and he was from Planes, Kansas and he had never seen that many people before in his life. So before kickoff we had some bad things happen. Still, it was a great experience and I am always going to be a Jayhawk football fan. My only regret is one of my nephews, Vernon Vaughn II was being recruited by KU and he is a two time state champion at Sumner Academy and probably the best kid that I have ever met. He has great hands is a wonderful football player but Kansas never offered him and our rivals out west who I won't name signed him so that made me sad. No, but I am excited for him and I always root for the conference teams as long as they aren't playing KU except for the Texas teams.