Ben Hillyer / The Natchez Democrat — Cathedral football player Dakota Vaughan squats 431 pounds with Rodney Hall spotting from behind in the Green Wave weight room Monday afternoon. Vaughan also has strong numbers in the classroom with a 3.7 GPA and an ACT score of 27.

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Scholar athlete: Cathedral’s Dakota Vaughan strong on field, in classroom

Published 12:01am Thursday, August 30, 2012

NATCHEZ — Dakota Vaughan’s success as an offensive lineman begins in the weight room, where the Cathedral High School senior dominates in squats.

As a freshman, Vaughan was squatting 405 pounds, and he can now squat a max of 500 pounds. In addition to good technique, having a strong set of legs is critical for Vaughan when protecting his quarterback in the trenches.

“A lineman uses his hands and feet: his hands to control the person in front of him, and his feet to stop the defensive lineman’s progress and direct him where he wants him to go,” Vaughan said.

“To keep a defensive lineman away from (the quarterback or running back), he has to have very strong legs.”

Vaughan’s accolades aren’t limited to the weight room. He currently has approximately a 3.7 grade-point average, and he’s made a 27 twice on the ACT.

“Grades are extremely important, because not only do they help you in athletics and school, but they also help you in life,” Vaughan said.

“If you work hard for grades in school, then you get into the routine of working hard, and you’ll work hard no matter what it is you’re doing — and you’ll know a lot about what you’re doing, because you made good grades and remembered it in school.”

As a lineman, Vaughan credit Cathedral assistant coaches Kurt Russ and Jonathan Gamberi for teaching him good technique.

“We definitely wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for those two,” Vaughan said of himself and his fellow linemen.

Vaughan also plays soccer for the Green Wave, and he said soccer is pretty much the only thing that’s capable of keeping him out of the weight room.

“As soon as I get out of soccer — the day of the last game — I’m back in the weight room, because I don’t want to lose anything for next season,” Vaughan said.

In soccer, Vaughan plays right fullback, which is part of the line of defenders right before the goalie. He said right fullback and the offensive line actually complement each other.

“Speed, agility and technique are important,” Vaughan said. “It’s all about the footwork, which actually helps me in football. The agility and footwork necessary to play soccer has allowed my football technique to progress as well.”

Vaughan said he’s been considering Southern Mississippi, Belhaven University and Pearl River Community College as potential college destinations, and he’s shooting for a 30 ACT score. He said he was originally looking for a college that wasn’t too small but small enough to give him any individual attention he needs.

“But I can’t afford college without a scholarship, so it really depends on who gives me a scholarship and how big it is,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan credited his parents, Paul and Suzi, as two people who have inspired him to work hard.

“My dad is an extremely hard worker,” Vaughan said. “This past month, he’s been staying way later than he should to try and get jobs done that he needs to pay for me. He dedicates his life for the betterment of mine.”

Vaughan said his mom is an “incredible” woman who has to care not only for him, but for her mother, who’s been battling dementia.

“It’s been really hard on her, but she’s still extremely positive,” Vaughan said. “She comes to every one of my games. Without (her and my dad), I would be nowhere near where I am now.”