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Low-profile prospect impresses Locos brass

When a team has 29 returning players from its championship squad, it’s safe to say certain players have secured a place on the field.

Brandon Moore is one of them. The former NFL linebacker helped the Las Vegas Locomotives to the inaugural United Football League title in November. But someone has to be ready in case Moore gets hurt or needs a rest. Maybe contribute on special teams, too.

Chase Vaughn thinks he can be that someone.

The free-agent rookie linebacker doesn’t have a high-profile football pedigree — he played at Division II Adams State and Colorado State-Pueblo. Nor does he have a wealth of experience — he didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school. But the 21-year-old from Aurora, Colo., thinks he has the ability to play professionally, and the Locos’ coaching staff agrees.

“I had great coaches at Pueblo, and they helped prepare me to play at this level,” said the 6-foot-2-inch, 242-pound Vaughn, who is among 70 players participating at the Locos’ minicamp this weekend at Sam Boyd Stadium. “I wasn’t getting any calls from the NFL, so I had to decide if I still wanted to play.

“I made the choice to go to the open tryout in Phoenix. I was aware (of the UFL) last year. I recognized a lot of names. There’s a lot of talent. But I feel I have the ability to be here.”

Vaughn was in the band his first two years at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, playing the saxophone. But the summer of his junior year, he was working out in the school’s weight room when a couple of football players saw him. They encouraged him to come out for the team, he did, had immediate success and knew his future was tied to the sport.

He played two years at Adams State, then transferred to CSU-Pueblo, which was reviving its program after a 20-year hiatus. He became a first-team All-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference selection, and, despite switching from defensive end to linebacker midway through his senior season, Vaughn was a dominant force.

Through the help of family, he paid his way to Phoenix, one of 250 prospects looking to get a shot. At the tryout, Vaughn caught coach Jim Fassel’s attention with his quickness (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds) and athleticism — two traits Fassel is looking for everywhere on the field, particularly at linebacker.

“We had success last year with athletic guys, and I liked his speed and quickness,” Fassel said. “We wouldn’t have brought him in here if we didn’t think he had a chance to make our team.”

His first day as a pro Friday was a bit rough, as he was tentative and cautious. On Saturday, he was much more active, breaking up passes and handling his assignments.

“One thing I learned right away is you gotta go fast,” Vaughn said. “I played it too safe in the first practice. (On Saturday) I was more myself.”

Defensive coordinator Larry MacDuff said he likes what he has seen of the low-profile free agent.

“He makes plays,” MacDuff said. “As coaches, there’s a real affection for guys who want to be achievers. (Vaughn) wants to be successful, and he’s got a real chance to make our team in the fall.”

Vaughn will be back in late August when the Locos open training camp in Las Vegas. This time, the Locos will pick up the tab. If he proves good enough, that investment in an airline ticket to Phoenix will have paid off handsomely.

“Not many people get to do what they love,” Vaughn said. “I feel very fortunate to be in this position to try to fulfil my dream.”

■ NOTES — The final minicamp workout today runs from 8 to 10:15 a.m. … The Saturday morning “FanFest” attracted 27 fans, and the Locos, who were hoping to give their season-ticket sales a boost with the promotion, sold 10, according to Fassel.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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