116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Editor’s note: Fourth in a nine-part series looking at each Iowa State football position ahead of the 2022 season.
AMES — Gerry Vaughn’s first big break came when fellow linebacker O’Rien Vance suffered through his most recent spate of bad ones.
Injuries kept Vance off the field four full games last season, but even when he played, he wasn’t 100 percent.
He is now — and the former Cedar Rapids Washington star is amped up to play alongside Vaughn and his other teammates as a sixth-year senior.
“Gerry, especially last year, with what he did, like I was number one cheering him on,” said Vance, who recorded a season-best nine tackles in the 20-13 Cheez-It Bowl loss to No. 14 Clemson. “It was so exciting to see him go out and play, do what he did best, which is play ball. Seeing him reach his goals of making the plays that he was making was just something that warmed my heart and made me feel good.”
Soon, they’ll take the field together, alongside projected fellow starter Colby Reeder, a smart and skilled 6-foot-3, 235-pound graduate transfer from FCS Delaware.
“Colby’s brought maturity,” said Vaughn, a 5-11, 235-pound junior from Atlanta who made his first six career starts last season. “Catches on with things quick. He’s also been a great help with the young guys, as well.”
Having a healthy Vance, a more-seasoned Vaughn and a veteran presence such as Reeder boosts ISU linebackers coach Tyson Veidt’s hopes that his unit can again be a strength despite the graduation of two standouts in Mike Rose and Jake Hummel.
“Our guys are playing really hard and we’ve got some guys who are really leading,” Veidt said. “I think, what a great time, if you can come into this program right now and I’m a young linebacker, and I’ve got O’Rien Vance there to watch and learn from, and Gerry Vaughn, these guys who have taken a lot of reps for us over the years.
“I think you're gonna get better if you just want to work at it and commit to it.”
It’s imperative to add quality depth in order to keep the headliners from racking up massive snap counts — and Veidt said younger players appear poised to provide the team with it.
“Two guys that have been here at Sam (strong side) linebacker that are competing for two or three would be Carston Marshall and Cole Pedersen,” Veidt said. “Backing up O’Rien (at Mike, or middle linebacker) will be Myles Mendeszoon, Will McLaughlin, those guys are really going at it there. And then behind Gerry Vaughn at Will (weak side linebacker) would be Kendell Jackson and Jacob Ellis. Those would be the two guys really.
“Those are the guys who are getting the bulk of the reps right now, so we’re going to need them all. I’ll tell you that. We’re going to need them not just on special teams but also for our defense to be the best it can be.”
The 6-2, 260-pound Vance serves as the driving force for those lofty hopes and Vaughn’s jazzed to be playing alongside him — not instead of him — more this season as long as injuries are kept in check.
“He’s been there for me when I was backing him up at Mike, so it’s gonna be great,” Vaughn said. “It will be fun having somebody out there that I know. He’s got my back just like I’ve got his.”