Vaughn Telemaque arrived at the University of Miami five years ago with a longboard, dread locks, an easygoing California attitude and the hunger to help put the Hurricanes back on the college football map.
With three regular-season games left to play in his college career, the fifth-year seniors attitude hasnt changed much even though his role at safety for UM has drastically shifted this season.
Its definitely been different for me, said Telemaque, who has gone from being a 38-game starter over the past four seasons to serving as a backup since returning on Oct. 13 from a left knee injury that cost him the Bethune-Cookman and Georgia Tech games.
Every time I get out there now I know my plays are going to be limited. So when I get out there I just try to get a good hit or a pass deflection, something to get my spirits up and help the team. When it all comes down to it, its not about whos starting, whos coaching, whos playing, its always been about the University of Miami and getting it where it needs to be.
A win at Virginia (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday afternoon would go a long way toward getting the Coastal Division-leading Hurricanes (5-4, 4-2) into the conference championship game for the first time ever. And thats a goal Telemaque (6-2, 202 pounds) said he has never lost sight of despite the disappointment of losing a starting job and seeing true freshman Deon Bush and others thrive in what used to be his starring role.
Yeah, its been a tough time for him, said redshirt junior A.J. Highsmith, who along with junior Kacy Rodgers and freshman Rayshawn Jenkins are expected to split the reps at safety Saturday with Bush (stinger) out this week.
Hes had his ups and downs, but hes been there for us as a teammate and you have to respect that about him.
Said Rodgers: Just because Vaughn is not playing as much as he wants, hes still leading in the meeting room. You really cant see a difference in VT. Hes not gone in the tank at all.
Before Telemaque started the first two games of the 2012 season and injured his left knee at Kansas State, the competition in UMs secondary was already gaining on him. Rodgers and former safety Ray-Ray Armstrong were the primary starters throughout the spring. When Armstrong was booted off the team shortly before the start of fall camp, it reopened the door for Telemaque to compete for a starting job. Eventually, though, he got hurt and Bush, Rodgers and Highsmith began to shine.
People can learn whether theyre a first-year guy or fifth-year guy," defensive coordinator Mark DOnofrio said. They can learn a lot about the preparation it takes, the attitude it takes to be on the field.
Telemaque, who, according to UM coach Al Golden, has continued to battle issues with his left knee and needs to get healthy, said he has no hard feelings toward Bush or any of UMs other safeties.
Deons going to be a great player here if he just continues to stay focused, Telemaque said. He has that hunger like all those other young guys to learn everything.
When you have a different coaching staff whos bringing in their recruits and their guys, they want to go ahead and build them up. Thats just how it is. I had the same thing happen for me when I got here. Coach [Randy] Shannon invested in me. The difference is some of those guys who were older than me back then, there just wasnt that same camaraderie. Im not going to pass that on. Im going to try and do something different and put my best foot forward.
Telemaque, who has 183 tackles, five fumble recoveries, four interceptions and 13 pass breakups in his career, hasnt exactly piqued the interest of too many NFL Draft scouts. Despite being tabbed as a strong tackler, NFLDraftScout.com lists him as the 23rd-best safety in the Class of 2013, a player likely to go undrafted.
Telemaque said that doesnt deter him one bit. He has also got a backup plan: his nonprofit agency Winners on Wheels, a skateboarding community-involvement program he launched as a sophomore. The program brought together 25 players and 20 kids from the Miami area this spring.
Im definitely going to give football a shot, said Telemaque, who earned a degree in business last spring. Ive seen plenty of people do it here before even though they werent starters.
But if that doesnt work out, Ill probably do some counseling. Ill be exploring that more with college and football. In the end, Im going to pursue my goals and nothing is going to change it.