The Football edition: Star running back carries heavy load for Vandy


Hey folks, hello to all the Georgia Bulldogs fans … hope you’re having a great Labor Day weekend in Nashville. The college football season kicks off full-force this weekend with a prime-time showdown on Saturday between host Vanderbilt and the visiting Bulldogs.

The game features two of the best running backs in the nation, Vandy senior Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. I talked with Vaughn in this week’s edition of the Nashville Ledger, and it was short but quite revealing conversation about how driven an athlete he is, and that he thrives on being the underdog. (Cover: Mike Hopey, Nashville Ledger)

It was both the Southeastern Conference and the season-opener for both schools, and the third-ranked Bulldogs rolled to a 30-6 victory. Vandy, coming off a 6-7 season and its third postseason bowl game in five years, still has a lot to prove under sixth-year coach Derek Mason.

“Right now, it’s all about this team. And we still get doubters to this day,” Vaughn told me after an early August evening practice.

“We’ve got me, (wide receiver) Kalija (Lipscomb) and (tight end Jared) Pinkney, the top three in our positions and everything, and we just get viewed as nothing. All that is just feeding into the team.”

Vaughn is the Southeastern Conference’s top returning running back, in terms of both yardage (1,244 in 2018) and touchdowns (12), and is on several prestigious “watch lists” for postseason honors. Yet he was a second-team All-SEC selection on both the coaches and media polls, with Georgia’s Swift and Alabama’s Najee Harris earning first-team honors.

Until proven otherwise, I’m going with Vaughn as the best running back in the SEC, even if the Bulldogs roll to a victory and Swift racks up more yards. There are a lot of factors in deciding such — opposing defenses, offensive line play, injuries, etc.

Georgia’s Swift, playing behind a superior offensive line against a suspect defense, finished with 16 carries for 149 yards. Vaughn had 74 yards on 15 carries. It’s a season-long race to see who will wind up as the league’s best back.

BOOK NEWS: The late-August Killer Nashville writers conference was another great event, seeing old friends and making new ones. The guests of honor were David Morrell, Joyce Carol Oates and Alexandra Ivy.

Congratulations to Baron R. Birtcher for his many KN awards (two Silver Falchions and Book of the Year) for Fistful of Rain. Baron is an amazingly talented writer.

To close, I want to share some exciting news. I am a member of the Harpeth River Writers group, and we have a new anthology coming out in October. More about that next time.

As always, thanks for reading.

Tom Wood

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