Catching Up with Khaleed Vaughn

Khaleed Vaughn

Life is good for ex-Clemson defensive lineman Kahleed Vaughn, who after playing a couple of seasons in the NFL, has found a home in the Arena League.

A former first-team All-Academic ACC performer, Vaughn finished his career with 194 tackles, 11 sacks and one interception. He also started the 2001 Gator Bowl against Virginia Tech, the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl against Louisiana Tech and the 2002 Tangerine Bowl against Texas Tech.

After leaving with a marketing degree in hand, he hung around the NFL for several years, playing for a quartet of teams before leaving for the Arena League in 2007, where he played for the Las Vegas Gladiators.

Vaughn just completed his second season in the AFL and first with the Kansas City Brigade. CUTigers.com caught up with him just after the end of his season. Here's what he had to say:

Kahleed, how do you look back on your time at Clemson?
Vaughn: My time up at Clemson, there was so much I loved about it. I wasn't even really recruited by Clemson. I was up there one day and my mom decided that she wanted to stop to talk to the coaches. A week later, I had a scholarship. I just was blessed. I just worked hard to get a Marketing degree. That's the main thing that I'm proud of. She (my mother) was a teacher and she taught me how important it was to get my schoolwork done. That was very important for here.

Discuss the impact that Coach Bowden had on you both as a person and as a player.
Vaughn: I came in the first year that he came in (in 1999). It's hard for me to believe that he's almost been there for 10 years now. I can't believe that it's been that long since I got out of high school. Coach Bowden was just a great man and somebody great to look up to. He coached how he was all the time. Some guys didn't like it but that was one of the better things about him. He would always let you know exactly where you stood with him. The whole experience at Clemson was a thing that I could never dream about. I never thought that I would play Division I or anything like that.

What did it mean for you to be honored twice with a spot on the ACC's All-Academic Team?
Vaughn: I did win it a couple of times and made the all-academic honor roll pretty much every semester I was at Clemson. That was something my mom, who was a judge in Atlanta, Georgia, taught me, was how important it was to do well in school. She made it very clear how important it would be for the rest of my life to go to school and work hard. My education at Clemson was pretty much the reason why I went there in the first place.

Former Clemson defensive lineman Khaleed Vaughn played with four teams in the NFL before spending the last two seasons in the Arena League.
It had to be great to have your younger brother Nigel as a teammate in 2003, didn't it?
Vaughn: I tried to get him to go to Georgia. Being from Atlanta, my brother was a smart person and also got a full scholarship. He worked hard and got himself a scholarship. It was great to be able to see him grow up. I wouldn't ever trade that for the world and hopefully, he wouldn't either.

If you had to name your favorite memory of your time in Clemson, what would it be?
Vaughn: Beating Florida State my senior year. That was such a memorable experience. I think that might have been the first time that we beat them in a while. That week, I didn't feel like anything changed but we went into that game with nothing to lose. I think they were ranked pretty highly, like No. 3 or No. 6 and we played well on defense. They had 80 yards on rushing and we did a good job on Greg Jones that year. That was the thing that turned the tide. We played great pass defense and great rushing defense. I believe I made a play in the fourth quarter when I dropped back in coverage and tipped the ball and Leroy Hill made an interception. It was a game that if we didn't turn the ball over, you could tell that we were going to win.

In your four seasons, the Tigers went to a bowl game every year. How fortunate do you consider yourself to have played in a bowl every season?
Vaughn: We went to a bowl every year I was at Clemson and I pretty much played in all of them. I think that I got kind of spoiled because I expected to go (to the postseason) almost every year. Talking to my friends, I would hear about guys who never got a chance to go to bowl games. It was definitely a big deal. I still have the rings at my house to show that I went to a bowl game every year. A lot of guys can't say that.

How do you look back on your time in the NFL?
Vaughn: It's a business. It's definitely not college ball and you definitely see that. I can see why a lot of younger guys who come out early have trouble their first couple of years because it's tough to adjust to the schedule, pace and what the coaches are expecting of you. I was blessed and worked hard. I played with four teams in three years. I started with the Giants and then played with Atlanta, Carolina and Denver. Now, I'm playing Arena ball. I feel that the NFL gave me a chance to get a lot more coaching. The best coach that I saw was Andre Patterson with the Denver Broncos. He taught me a lot of techniques and worked individually with the players on what they needed to do. It definitely helped bring my game a long way from where I was at when I first got there.

What's been the biggest adjustment for you to the AFL?
Vaughn: The speed of the game is the biggest thing. You have to get to the quarterback a lot faster but that's about it. The quarterback isn't holding the ball too long.

Many people have misconceptions about the Arena League. What do you think is the biggest one?
Vaughn: I think a lot of people think that this league has a lot of guys who can't play at the next level. There are a lot of guys who have already played at that level. I am looking forward to having a nice career here in Arena, hopefully a long career. I don't know if my wife sees the same thing but we'll see.

What did the South Carolina rivalry mean to you personally?
Vaughn: We have a guy from South Carolina on Kansas City right now, Larrell Johnson. I joke with him all the time about the shellackings we gave them over the years. You quickly realized (how important that rivalry was) because the coaches let you know, the fans let you know, the alumni lets you know and the Athletic Director lets you know how big the game is and how important it was to win it. My greatest memory was when we put 63 on them at South Carolina as a senior. That was truly a big thing for me.

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