Patience pays off for Bucs rookie Ke'Shawn Vaughn
Ke'Shawn Vaughn went into the fourth game of his rookie season Sunday without playing a single down on offense. Vaughn, the Bucs' third-round pick in April, spent most of the season buried on the running back depth chart. But a few weeks ago, coach Bruce Arians reminded him that his time might come when he least expected it, so be prepared.

And with Leonard Fournette out against the Chargers and LeSean McCoy and Kenjon Barner injured during the game, the Bucs had two healthy running backs down the stretch — starter Ronald Jones and Vaughn. Suddenly, Vaughn found himself in the middle of a Tom Brady second-half comeback. And with the Bucs in the red zone, Brady hit Vaughn in the flat for a touchdown that gave Tampa Bay an early fourth-quarter lead it wouldn't relinquish.

On second and goal from the 9 with the Bucs trailing 31-28, Vaughn lined up to Brady's left and ran a route into the flat. Brady found him, and Vaughn raced to the end zone pylon, outrunning safety Rayshawn Jenkins, then driving cornerback Michael Lewis into the end zone.

"I had to get into the end zone that time, because opportunities ain't going to come like that," said Vaughn, who kept the ball from his touchdown. "So anytime I've got the chance to get in the end zone, I've got to get in there. Having that ball thrown by the GOAT himself, Tom Brady, makes it even better."

One of the main reasons the Bucs drafted Vaughn out of Vanderbilt in the third round was because he also proved to be a valuable asset as a receiver. And we all know how much Brady likes to throw to his running backs.

But when the Bucs went rogue and signed veteran running backs McCoy and Fournette, Vaughn largely found himself on the outside looking in for playing time. It also didn't help that Vaughn — like all other rookies — didn't have the opportunity to show what he could do during organized team activities or preseason games.

He opened camp on the reserve/COVID-19 list, which is for players who either test positive or were exposed to someone who tested positive. And after not having the time or opportunity to win over his coaches, little mistakes, like his fumble in the Bucs' scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium, stood out.

"About two or three weeks ago, his dobber was down," Arians said. "He didn't think he was going to get much action, and I told him, ‘Hey, you never know. And when it comes, it's going to be extremely important, so be ready.' He was — a hell of a catch, hell of a run, get that thing into the end zone, and he played really well."

On Sunday, Vaughn and Jones carried the load. Jones recorded his second career 100-yard rushing game with a career-high 111 yards on 20 carries. And Vaughn served as a pass-catching safety valve late for Brady. After his touchdown, Vaughn made a key third-down catch for a 13-yard gain and a first down on a drive that ended with a Ryan Succop field goal and a 38-31 Tampa Bay lead.

"It's (about) being prepared and getting ready to play at any time," Vaughn said. "I got more reps this week so I kind of took advantage of them at practice and you practice how you play, so it was kind of that same thing. You practice well and you get that end result in the game."

Eduardo Encina, Tampa Bay Times, published 5 October 2020