Getting to know: Vickiel Vaughn

Vickiel Vaughn, the 49ers seventh-round selection in the recent NFL draft, played the role of Big Brother last season at the University of Arkansas. Both literally and figuratively.

As a defensive mainstay throughout his four-year college career, Vaughn was the veteran leader and tutor in 2005 to a bunch of youngsters in the Arkansas secondary after that unit lost most of its other top players from the season before.

"Being that we had a young team, they were looking for a player to guide them, and I played that role," Vaughn said.

And he played it well. Vaughn finished second on the team in tackles after leading the Razorbacks in that department the season before and paced the secondary with four interceptions, one of which he returned 52 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina. As a junior, he tied for the team lead with two interceptions that he returned 92 yards, which ranked third in the Southeastern Conference.

His teammates looked up to him. But so did a couple of young ladies at the Arkansas campus the past few years who also went by the name of Vaughn.

Vickiel's twin sister, Rochelle, played for the school's basketball team before graduating in three years and now is attempting to play basketball professionally. His younger sister, Brittney, also plays for the Lady Razorbacks. Vaughn had a lot of responsibility with the football team, but he never was too busy to enjoy a little family time with his siblings.

"It was great having family there, and that's always good in a new environment," Vaughn said. "You look forward to having family around in a situation and environment like that. We all supported each other and lived for each other. Most definitely, having your family there was just a joy. You looked forward to seeing those familiar faces."

Vaughn followed some familiar faces in the Arkansas secondary. Future NFL players Kenoy Kennedy, Ken Hamlin and Tony Bua all started at free safety in recent seasons before him. It gave Vaughn a standard to uphold while he was holding down that starting position the past two years.

It was during those two seasons that Vaughn developed into a team leader and pro prospect who built a reputation as heavy hitter that also was a force on special teams. Niners vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan feels Vaughn could be a late-round find for the 49ers.

"He was a big-time high school recruit coming out of Plano, Texas," McCloughan said. "As a true freshman he went into Arkansas and contributed, which is a very unique for a freshman player in that conference. He played free safety but he is more of a strong safety at the (NFL) level. He's a good tackler who likes to be aggressive. He likes contact. He's a contact seeker. He shows good ball skills down the field. I'm very excited to see how he performs and I have a feeling that he will become a great value for the pick where we got him."

Vaughn is excited for the opportunity to show his stuff with the 49ers, and he's anxious to follow in the footsteps of the great Arkansas safeties before him.

"You always want to keep it going, what they've had before you," Vaughn said. "You don't want to end something that was good about Arkansas. Those guys were great leaders and they were also hard workers who played hard. One thing they taught you was how to play the game."

Vaughn learned from them well. He also learned to pass that knowledge along when his time as a top Hawg finally came around. That experience will help as Vaughn - whose unique first name comes from a combination of his mother (Vickie) and father (Ezekiel) - begins the cycle all over again while battling to earn a roster berth in a wide-open 49ers secondary.

"I learned a lot from watching," Vaughn said. "Over the course of my (college) career, I grew a lot mentally. The game comes a lot more naturally and instinctively to me now. I feel like I can come in and help contribute to the secondary. I'm just going to go out there and fight for a role. You're always looking for the challenge. You're always looking to do something for the team."

Just like he did at Arkansas.

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