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Donte Vaughn, quarterback turned cornerback

| Friday, November 22, 2019

Notre Dame senior cornerback Donte Vaughn wasn’t always on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, the Memphis, Tennessee native played quarterback all the way up until his sophomore year of high school.

Zachary Yim | The Observer
Irish senior cornerback Donte Vaughn tackles an opponent during Notre Dame’s 21-20 win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 2 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“I kept going, I got into high school, I won state my ninth-grade year. I was playing quarterback at the time. Then, my tenth-grade year, my coach he told me ‘I think you should play cornerback,’ because I was tall. He thought I would make a better cornerback than a quarterback.” Vaughn said. “He guaranteed me that ‘If you switch your tenth-grade year, you’d have like three or four offers after your tenth-grade year. So I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to switch’, and I ended up with five offers after my tenth grade year. I still thank him to this day, his name is Coach Harmon.”

Vaughn has appeared in games every season since arriving to Notre Dame, and is currently a main stay in the corner rotation this season with 13 total tackles.

Vaughn’s first experience with Notre Dame didn’t quite go as planned.

“It’s crazy because the practice that [Notre Dame] came to, our pads had gotten stolen and I couldn’t practice for them so I told them, ‘Yeah, coach I can’t practice because our pads got stolen’. And to see the look on their faces like, ‘What? I’ve never heard that before.’ It’s crazy because I didn’t know anything about [Notre Dame] before my eleventh-grade year, I didn’t know anything at all,” Vaughn said. “So, when they came I was like ‘Woah’ and I just started doing my research about the school and I saw that this is a special place. I ended up taking a visit around springtime that year, I came here and I was like ‘This is the place to be,’” he said.

Growing up, Vaughn’s father is the person he idolized the most, and arguably the main reason why he is where he’s at today.

“I’ve seen my pops almost homeless; he was riding his bike to come to see me play. He was coming from downtown to my school on a bike and I’d see him,” Vaughn said. “But he never gave up, he always showed us the love a father is supposed to. I would say probably my freshman year, he ended up getting a job at Tesla. I was so proud of him. I was like man, if he can stick through all of that; like his mom had passed away, he was homeless, and I was like if he can go through all of that, I can do this school stuff … because he had to go through real life stuff. So I looked up to him, I looked up to him a lot.”

Vaughn has dealt with his own adversity since arriving on campus, most notably in terms of battling through injuries throughout his football career.

“Sophomore year I got some injuries. … I was going through adversity and stuff … I found out yeah man, I’m torn up right now, my shoulder, I broke my hand and I’m going through all of that at one time, and I’m not up there yet,” Vaughn said.

Despite the challenges he’s faced to get to this point, this senior season marks a major step for Vaughn.

“I was able to pull off a solid senior season so I’m proud of that, and I’m just proud to be graduating from the University of Notre Dame. All my people back home are proud of me, I’m just happy to make them proud,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn went on to say that his experiences here will prepare him later in life.

“You’re going to face adversity and it’s all about how you respond. Every time I got hurt, I was like ‘How can I take a positive out of this, I might be hurt but I’m at Notre Dame,” Vaughn said. “I play for Notre Dame so when I’m back healthy, I’m going to embrace the fact that I’m at this school and it’s going to keep pushing me to be better.”

Vaughn’s key takeaways from his time spent under the dome have been mostly mental.

“Being patient and just being confident in myself and my abilities. Just along with that, my time is coming, just being patient and continuing to keep grinding it out, that’s all I have to do here, keep on pushing,” Vaughn said. “You’re going to get knocked around, you’re going to get kicked down, but at the end of the day you’ve got to stand on your ten toes and keep fighting, that’s what I’ve learned.”

Off of the field, as a keen observer would notice, Vaughn is interested in fashion and design.

“I’m a big fashion guy. I like to design clothes and stuff like that, if I’m not doing stuff [for football], I’m designing clothes. That’s what I like to do,” Vaughn said.

Moving forward, Vaughn plans to pursue a career in the NFL, but if football doesn’t end up working out, he mentioned that he is starting his own clothing line so he’s going to “push that too.” The name of the clothing brand is Don Croire.

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