Dustin Vaughan began his Dallas Cowboys career with about as much of a chance to make the 53-player roster as his parody scouting video on YouTube gave him.
Sure, the team’s scouts liked him enough that the Cowboys gave him a $5,000 signing bonus as an undrafted free agent.
But the Cowboys haven’t carried three quarterbacks on their roster since 2011, when Stephen McGee, a fourth-round pick in 2009, served as a developmental prospect.
“I appreciate absolutely any opportunity I can get,” Vaughan said. “Whether that’s coming in and being the third quarterback, being on the practice squad, it’s my dream to be in the NFL, and right now I’m trying to make this team. However, I can do it. I just need to take every opportunity. One step at a time. I think that’s the most important thing for me.”
Jerry Jones conceded after Saturday’s second preseason game that Vaughan very well may force the Cowboys to keep him on their roster. During training camp, the owner referenced Matt Moore.
Moore, an undrafted free agent, went 21 of 29 for 182 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a 100.1 passer rating during the 2007 preseason. The Cowboys cut him, hoping to re-sign him to the practice squad. Instead, the Carolina Panthers picked up Moore as their third-string quarterback, and he started three games that season and 25 for his career.
“We’re going to see a lot of him these next two ballgames I’m sure,” Jones said of Vaughan, “and we’ll see how that plays out. But he could very well [make the active roster as the third quarterback].”
The phrase the Cowboys repeatedly use with Vaughan is “the stage isn’t too big for him,” which is somewhat surprising considering he played at Division II West Texas A&M.
“The thing the coaches have told me multiple times is there’s no excuse now of coming in and being from a smaller school or being a rookie quarterback, because their expectations are going to be high for me,” Vaughan said. “They’re going to coach me that way, and I love being coached that way.
“I think that’s important for me to get past the bright lights and to get past all of that stuff and get to the root of it, which is playing the game of football the way it needs to be played and going out and managing the game like a quarterback needs to manage.”
Vaughan is 10 for 21 for 114 yards and a touchdown in five series of two preseason games. He played the entire fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers in the first preseason game and entered with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens.
He excited the crowd of 77,624 with a pair of touchdown drives to get the Cowboys within four points. On the second drive, he hit back-to-back throws to wide receiver Jamar Newsome, his training camp roommate. The first was a perfect 24-yard pass on a go route that got the Cowboys to the 5-yard line, and, on the next snap, he found Newsome on the corner route.
“I’m not going to lie: I was extremely happy with that [touchdown] pass,” Vaughan said. “It’s always good to get that first touchdown pass in your career. I was definitely excited after that.”
The Cowboys like what they have seen from Vaughan so far, perhaps earning him a spot as a developmental prospect.
“For 6-5, I’m particularly impressed with his feet,” Jones said. “His feet are quicker than they ought to be for 6-5. I liked what I saw out there. Even on the [last] play, he showed some quick feet. We know he’s got that arm.
“For a pre-med guy, though, I thought that last play [a pass after crossing the line of scrimmage, ending the game on a 10-second runoff] lacked something. He’ll learn how to manage that. But still I thought he showed something really good.”