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Stepping into the limelight

Desmond Vaughan is only 12 years old, but his opportunities to take big stages in the realm of athletics have already come, and they seem to only be multiplying.

He was part of the Buckingham Majors All-Star baseball team that won a state championship earlier this year and advanced to the Dixie Youth Baseball Major League World Series in Alabama.

Moving forward, it seems much of his time in the athletics limelight may come as a result of his play on the gridiron.

His parents, Rodney and Bernest Vaughan, have afforded him significant opportunities to play football, searching far and wide after he had outgrown the recreation league options in Buckingham County, where they live.

“With us not having a middle school team, I had to find him an AAU team,” Rodney said.

AAU, which stands for Amateur Athletic Union, has a new football team this year at the Under-12 (U12) age level called Virginia Footprint, based out of Lynchburg.

Playing at center, Desmond has helped the Virginia Footprint go 10-0 and advance to the 2017 AAU 12U National Championship in Orlando, Florida, which runs Dec. 13-18.

To qualify for the national competition, the Footprint had to place among the top two teams in Virginia, and it took first by defeating the Richmond Eagles 33-6 in the Virginia AAU 12U state championship game.

“It’s been amazing,” Desmond said of the experience so far. He added that coming from a little town in Buckingham, “it’s a real good experience for me.”

During the course of the season, his play caught the eye of Sylvester Marks, the director of the southwestern region of the U.S. for Diamond Sports Group (DSG). Marks tapped Desmond to participate in the DSG All-American Bowl in Virginia Beach near the end of December.

“This young man is like a little bit before his time, and his stature is great,” Marks said. “His attributes as far as being the next-level player and his desire and determination was like none that we had seen at his age level, and we’re looking and very excited to see him play in our event.”

Rodney, who coached his son for the six years leading up to his current run with the Footprint, said his son was not originally excited about playing center, but he provided him with some helpful insight.

“I said, ‘Your name might not ever get called out on offense, but every play starts with you,’” he said. “‘You are the first person that put the play in motion. If you don’t do your job, then the quarterback can’t do his job.’ … After a while, he realized how important it was. It made him be more enthusiastic about it.”

Desmond has enjoyed taking on a higher level of competition at the AAU level with his Footprint teammates.

“I think it’s really good because I just snap good and we block and we all enjoy doing that, so we’re doing hard work,” he said. “It makes the work much easier in the game.”

Virginia Footprint Head Coach Jeff Bateman has been impressed with Desmond and the Vaughan family.

“I’ve got to give kudos to his mom and dad, because he lives in Buckingham, and he comes an hour and 15 minutes to practice every day,” Bateman said. “So when you’ve got parents doing stuff like that for their child, that can spark him, spark something good that can happen. Desmond is very humble, never got any backtalk from him, always, ‘Yes, sir,’ ‘No, sir’ — a very respectful kid.”

The coach noted that Desmond played both center and is a defensive lineman, and gives it his all.

“He’s just a great all-around kid,” Bateman said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if when he gets to high school that he’s made a name for himself.”

Bateman said that Desmond will have the opportunity to play in additional All-American games as well.

Desmond is excited by how his young career progressing.

“I think its moving good so far, because my really big goal is to play in the NFL, so this part right now is really good for me so far,” he said.