Ballinger's Tyler Vaughn signs to play football at Howard Payne University

Paul Harris
San Angelo Standard-Times
Ballinger's Tyler Vaughn signed to play football at Howard Payne University in Brownwood on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, during a signing ceremony at Ballinger High School.

BALLINGER — Ballinger High School's Tyler Vaughn committed to play football at Howard Payne University in Brownwood during a signing ceremony on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021.

Vaughn helped lead Ballinger to its winningest season in 25 years last fall, despite a shoulder injury in the season opener that knocked him out of the starting quarterback spot.

He battled through the injury and still earned first-team all-district honors on offense and defense.

"It's always been my dream to play at the next level," said the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Vaughn. "Both my parents went (to Howard Payne), so I was going to look at it just for them. When I went there, I really wasn't thinking I was going to like it, but I fell in love and got attached to it. It's just a great place to be."

Ballinger High School's Tyler Vaughn signs to play football at Howard Payne University in Brownwood while his parents, Greg and Missy, look on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021.

Ballinger head coach Chuck Lipsey said Howard Payne landed a player that's going to help the team wherever he lines up.

"You couldn't ask for a better teammate," Lipsey said. "He's a great leader and a great friend and a smart player. And you always knew on Friday night he was going to give 100%. That's a big part of the way he played. ... It didn't matter where he was playing, he never complained. He didn't have anything bad to say about anything. He was always positive, and you don't have too many kids come along like that too often.

"He's going to work his butt off, and he's going to make them a player wherever they need him."

Tyler Vaughn and Ballinger head football coach Chuck Lipsey show the Howard Payne University "Sting 'em" sign during a signing ceremony Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, at Ballinger High School.

Vaughn proved his toughness and willingness to play anywhere last season when he was injured in Week 1 against Jim Ned.

He handed over the reins of the offense and switched from quarterback to tight end/H-back, where he had 16 catches for 225 yards in addition to his work as a blocker.

On defense, he had 40 tackles, five interceptions and two forced fumbles.

"I really didn't care where I played. I just wanted to play for the love of the game," Vaughn said. "We've got a great group of guys, and I wouldn't want to be with anyone else. We all love each other. We're all brothers. We're a family, and it was just a fun year."

Ballinger High School's Tyler Vaughn is surrounded by friends and family during a signing ceremony Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. Vaughn signed to play football at Howard Payne University in Brownwood.

Vaughn said he'll have to decide whether he wants to play as a tight end or safety in college.

He's finally healing after three years' worth of injuries, Lipsey said.

Vaughn recently had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, which he injured his junior year in a playoff game against Childress.

That injury ultimately gave him more trouble than the one he suffered his senior year as it popped out of place several times during football and basketball season, Lipsey said.

Ballinger's Tyler Vaughn (#7) throws a pass over the head of an Anson player at the game Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, in Ballinger.

He also had a dislocated ankle that ended his sophomore year.

"Now he's got everything fixed, and he just needs to heal up," Lipsey said. "It says a lot for a kid to have the kind of problems he had with his arm and still be able to play."

Vaughn moved to Ballinger following his freshman year at Brady, where he was named a co-Newcomer of the Year in his district.

He was also named the district's Newcomer of the Year in baseball after helping Brady win its first district title in the program's 27-year history.

Ballinger's Tyler Vaughn (7) pumps up the crowd during the Bearcats' game Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, against Anson.

Vaughn helped Ballinger beat his former school in football in the 2019 season opener with a game-saving interception in the end zone in the final seconds.

This year, Ballinger went 10-2 and won its first district title since 2007. The Bearcats posted their first 10-win season since 1995.

Vaughn is joining a Howard Payne team that went 5-5 during its last season in 2019. Due to COVID-19, the Yellow Jackets postponed the 2020 season until this spring. They'll play their season opener Saturday, Feb. 6, at home against Texas Lutheran.

Howard Payne is a NCAA Division III school that competes in the American Southwest Conference. The school has an enrollment of about 1,100 students.