Watch NFL legend surprise Cowboys' Deuce Vaughn at Rookie Premiere

Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn (22) celebrates
Dec 31, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; Kansas State Wildcats running back Deuce Vaughn (22) celebrates / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have downplayed all the media-driven speculation that they need another running back. That speaks to the confidence in their current stable of backs, which includes 2023 sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn, who just might be the biggest wild card in Dallas' backfield.

It remains to be seen what role Vaughn will have in the Cowboys' offense, though it would be shortsighted of the coaching staff to shoehorn him to a gadget role.

As he showed at Kansas State, Vaughn is a playmaker. While he might find NFL defenses more difficult to navigate than the Big 12, it would behoove the Cowboys to get the ball in his hands, regardless of the scheme.

After all, a number of "undersized" RBs over the years have found success in the league. Darren Sproles is a recent prime example, as are the 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew and the 5-foot-8 Ray Rice before a 2014 domestic violence arrest derailed his career.

While Sproles is one of Vaughn's idols, he's not the reason Vaughn started playing football. That player, who just so happens to be a legend of the game, surprised Vaughn with a message and gift at the Rookie Premiere.

Cowboys' Deuce Vaughn surprised by hero Barry Sanders

Vaughn didn't receive a message from Barry Sanders like most 2023 rookies did from their football idols, but a signed Sanders Lions jersey is just as good, if not better.

“This dude right there is the reason I play this game,” Vaughn said in the video. “He’s the reason I work so hard. This is huge.”

It's easy to see why Vaughn looks to Sanders for motivation. At 5-foot-8 and barely scratching 200 pounds, Sanders wasn't a physically imposing back and went on to become one of the greatest players in NFL history.

Sanders won four rushing titles and is one of a handful of running backs to win an MVP. He twice was the league's Offensive Player of the Year and is the league's fourth all-time leading rusher with 15,269 yards despite retiring after 10 seasons at the age of 31.

In his final season in 1998, Sanders rushed for 1,491 yards. It's widely believed that Sanders would have retired as the NFL's all-time rushing leader -- a title currently held by Emmitt Smith -- had he played into his mid-30s.

Already entering the NFL with a chip on his shoulder after a wide contingent of draft analysts expected him to go undrafted, Vaughn receiving a signed Sanders jersey likely gives him added incentive to prove the doubters wrong.

Of course, none of those doubters reside in Dallas.

Due to Vaughn's underdog narrative and the moment he shared with his dad, Chris Vaughn, on draft night, he's already a fan favorite around these parts, and he just experienced another unforgettable moment thanks to Sanders.

What a start to Vaughn's NFL career.

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