Del. Michael Vaughn: OK, I Didn't Actually Have a 3-Year Dallas Cowboys Career. A Maryland legislator plays fantasy football with his bio.

A screenshot of Michael Vaughn's official bio page

Michael Vaughn is running to keep his seat in the Maryland House of Delegates. The personal bio on Vaughn’s official campaign helps explain why he deserves one: Representing the Prince George’s County–based 24th District, which includes portions of Landover, he’s racked up a slew of community service and political accomplishments, like being named deputy majority whip and co-chairing the Task Force on the Minority Business Enterprise Program.

There’s also a compelling nugget about his athletic background: “Michael Vaughn played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys for 3 years.”

That’s the sort of resume line that can really set a candidate apart, especially in a district that includes FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins.

If only it were true.

“We have no record of him playing for the Dallas Cowboys,” says Jancy Briles, spokeswoman for the Cowboys. Briles says she also checked an NFL database, and learned “they don’t have a Michael Vaughn listed as ever playing in the NFL, either.”

During my own look-sees into the Dallas Cowboys history, including inspections of every roster from the late-1970s and early-1980s, I was unable to find any reference to Vaughn, whose bio lists his birth year as 1957.

I did find seven guys surnamed Vaughn who have played in the NFL, from Bill Vaughn, a fullback who spent the 1926 season with the Buffalo Rangers, to Vickiel Vaughn, a defensive back who was taken by the San Francisco 49ers in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL draft. (From this clique, local fans might best remember Clarence Vaughn, who played with the Redskins from 1987-1992.)

But, alas, no “Michael Vaughn.”

There’s a paper trail showing the candidate was a fine football player as a young man. A Washington Post clip from November 4, 1979, about the Southern University/Howard football game, describes how “wingback Michael Vaughn of Landover” caught a 40-yard touchdown pass to end the scoring in visiting Southern’s 30-0 rout.

But that trail stops cold after college.

The athletic department at Southern, Vaughn’s alma mater, keeps what it calls “a composite list” of alums that have “lended their services” to pro ball clubs. The school’s 2009 football media guide has 87 names of former players who made it to “the National Football League (NFL), Canadian Football League (CFL), the United States Football League (USFL) and the Arena Football League (AFL).” Guys like Gillis Wilson of the Georgia Force and Elvis Joseph of the Edmonton Eskimos make the cut.

But no Michael Vaughn of the Dallas Cowboys.

When contacted to verify the NFL claims made on his campaign site, Vaughn initially defends the football claims made in the bio. “I was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in 1980,” he says.

Vaughn quickly adds that he’s a member of the NFL Players Alumni Association. But that group’s membership requirements do not include actually playing for an NFL team.

After I tell him I couldn’t find any record of a Michael Vaughn ever being with the Cowboys, Vaughn says, “I was with the team for five months. I didn’t get in a game. That’s why there’s no stats, no record.”

The Cowboys say they don’t have any records of who practiced with the team in 1980; only folks who made a game roster. That caveat might provide some wiggle room for a guy who claimed he had been with a team for five months and didn’t get in a game. But the wording on Vaughn’s website is only appropriate for somebody who had a real career. An above-average career, you might even say: A 2002 report in The New York Times put the average length of an NFL receiver’s career at only 2.81 years.

When I read Vaughn the exact phrasing from his campaign bio—“played professional football for the Dallas Cowboys for 3 years”—he says, “No, that’s not true.”

Vaughn says he can’t explain how the erroneous info made it to his campaign website. “I did not put that out there,” he says. “I have a Webmaster. I have no idea where they got that. I don’t want inaccurate information out there. If you look, there’s other incorrect information on the site.”

I came across Vaughn’s alleged NFL career last week, while fact checking a story about Dan Snyder’s cigar bar at FedExField. Vaughn had co-sponsored a bill that would have given the establishment, called the Montecristo Club, an exemption from state anti-smoking laws, and I had looked into his background trying to find an explanation why a lawmaker would do Snyder a favor like that. The bill sponsorship made sense when I saw the NFL experience listed on Vaughn’s resume, but I removed that from my cigar bar story when I couldn’t verify that he had actually been with the Dallas Cowboys for a day, let alone three seasons.

This isn’t the first time I’d encountered an inaccurate athletic remembrance. The weirdest came when At-Large D.C. Councilmember Michael Brown told me in 2008, while I was writing about a high school football all-star game which Brown had helped put together, that he was named “All Met” in basketball in the early 1980s while playing for Mackin Catholic High School. The prestige of that designation, controlled by The Washington Post, has been watered down a bit over the decades. But in Brown’s day, being named All-Met in basketball was the Oscar, the Nobel, and the Pulitzer of local prep athletics. I couldn’t find any record that Brown was ever actually named All-Met, so I edited his claim out of my 2008 story.

I went back to Brown this week to ask about his athletic background, and he repeated the All-Met claim.

“It would have been my senior season, 1982-83,” he says. “I’ve tried to find [a newspaper clipping], but I haven’t had the chance to go down to The Washington Post and get it. I’d have it up in a frame.”

I have trouble doubting that Brown, at 45, believes he made an All-Met basketball team as a kid. But The Washington Post says otherwise. Camille Powell, who edits the paper’s high school sports coverage, double-checked for me: “I looked through the copies of the 1980–85 All-Met teams again,” she reported back via e-mail, “and I don’t see any mention of Michael/Mike Brown and Mackin, not even in the all-league lists.” (Future Duke great Johnny Dawkins and future Boston College star Dominic Pressley, both also from Mackin, showed up on those All-Met teams.)

The most comical bogus athletic resume I’ve encountered came from James Amps III, a motivational speaker. Amps had written a letter to the editor of Washington City Paper after I’d written a story about the phoniness of Remember the Titans, the 2000 Denzel Washington film about the 1971 T.C. Williams football team. I’d pointed out that the real life Herman Boone was making scads of money on the public speaking circuit by replacing his actual bio with the life story of the Denzel Washington character. Amps blasted me for insinuating that movie was phony.

Turns out Amps was phonier than the film: He had launched his own speaking career after the movie came out by identifying himself in promotional materials as a “an All-American Football and Track star at T.C. Williams High School and an Original Titan under Coach Herman Boone.” Amps did in fact attend T.C. Williams, but the rest is malarkey. “James Amps was a running back on the T.C. Williams team in the late 1970s, not 1971, and he scored one touchdown his senior year,” says longtime T.C. Williams statistician and Alexandria sports historian Greg Paspatis. “He wasn’t an ‘Original Titan’ or anything like an All-American in football or any sport. He didn’t get any honors from anywhere.”

“I was just trying to get my speaking thing started,” Amps explained to me a few years ago when I asked why he created a fictional bio. Yet he’s still claiming in his promotional materials to be an all-American athlete and “Original Titan.”

Athletic phony baloneys never get as much press as military blusterers, but there is some overlap. The most publicized recent example of the latter sort of puffery came with Connecticut Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal’s insinuations that he served in Vietnam. Actually, his military career peaked as a Marine Corps reservist—sort of the practice squad of the Marines—who had avoided the draft through deferments. But the media’s investigation into Blumenthal’s military bio also debunked a claim made in a 2000 Slate profile that he’d been the captain of the Harvard swim team.

Henry Allen, the longtime Post writer and decorated veteran who got bounced after throwing punches in the newsroom, theorized that men like Blumenthal make up unreal histories because they come up short “not in the eyes of the world, but in [their] own eyes.”

In a 1999 story in the Los Angeles Times about the “imposter syndrome,” clinical psychologist Loren Pankratz observed that sufferers have one similarity: [An] internal need to impress themselves and a feeling of power that they can pull it off.”

Football isn’t war, and the NFL draft avoided Vaughn, not vice versa. But however it is that a fictional Dallas Cowboys career ended up on the P.G. politico’s resume, it’s understandable if at this point in his life Vaughn still wishes his football career had longer legs.

In a radio interview just days before he was released by the Redskins, Colt Brennan admitted being envious of players who made it on the field while he watched. “You just realize how jealous you are because at least those guys can say they played in the NFL,” he says. “I have yet to be able to say I played in an actual game.”

Get back to us in 30 years, Colt.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, this story incorrectly identified the college attended by former All-Met basketball player Dominic Pressley. He went on to play for Boston College. The Web version of this story has been updated to reflect the changes.

Our Readers Say

At least Michael Vaugh did live in Landover,before he moved to Springdale. At least he is mostly honest,works mainly ethical,married and hopefully fully heterosexual and loves GOD.
We do need a shape-up and shake-up in PEE GEE politics no doubt and not entirely because of the Cowboys misquote but the fact remain we got some really senior-senile-shenanigans in the Annapolis legislature creeping and sleeping for personal benefit.
We cannot name Exum, Currie, Hendershot,Arrington's,Jack-o-Johnson, Rushern Baker (loves non-profits and Southern Mgt Apt Owner), and let me stop here and ask that a PG City Paper get started or at least it own section in the Washington City Paper..long overdue cause so mnay of us go back and forth in DC and Pee Gee and sometimes VA (DMV)!
If candidates play fast and loose with their bio, they will probably play fast and loose with county funds. I could care less if he is married, heterosexual or which God he loves, but I do care that he is "mostly honest". A mostly honest politician is like a mostly faithful spouse. Who needs him?
@TartofMind7

"let me stop here and ask that a PG City Paper get started"

First, PG's not a city.
Second, what's stopping you from doing it?
I answer questions about the Dallas Cowboys on Allexperts.com.

The one question I get more often than any other is, "did so-and-so ever play for the Dallas Cowboys?". My response is very carefully worded. In 99% of the cases, the answer is, there is no record of so-and-so on the all-time roster, and if the claimant believes otherwise, it is up to him to provide proof.

In one case out of hundreds over the last ten years, an individual WAS able to produce a free-agent contract which allowed him to try-out for the team, but he didn't make the final cut. In his eyes, that allowed him to claim (truthfully, in his eyes) that he was a "former" Dallas Cowboy.

In my view, he was no more a former Cowboy than an actress can claim to be a "former castmember" of a successful Broadway show just because she showed up for and failed a casting call!

Most of the questions (about 80%) come from women, which leads me to believe these fakers are just trying to impress the ladies. What worries me is, only the less-gullible women bother to even ask the question -- who knows how many of the more gullible are taken in by their lies, and as long as the guys can get away with it, they will continue to do so.

Too bad this kind of fraud isn't legally punishable . . .
Good piece Dave. Actual reporting. I'll bet Wemple misses you already.
Another lying politician.

What a shocker...

I don't know what's worse, the fact he lies on his resume, or that fact that he has a chubber for the Cowboys?
I always find it stories like this interesting. We all know pols lie. But on stories like this you can guess the party.

If it was a republican, it would be pointed out numerous times. But since it's a democrat - not a mention.

Good story overall.
If he was a republican he would be gay and trying to square it with his ministry!
Michael Vaughn....just another lieing political bozo.
Do we still wonder why our system has broken down,why less then half of americans even vote???look no further dear reader.

What a first class Chucklehead.
MICHEAL VAUGHN.. DID ATTEND THE DALLAS COWBOYS CAMP.. HE MAY HAVE MADE THE PRACTICE SQUAD.. WHICH QUALIFIES AS BEING "ON" THE TEAM.. THE REPORTER AND THE RECORDS PERSON AT DALLAS NEEDS TO CHECK THE 'HISTORY' OF THE COWBOYS AT THAT TIME..THERE WAS/THEY HAD TRY OUT CAMPS.. WHICH SOME GUYS MAY EXAGGERATE INTO FREE AGENCY>/BEING A COWBOY/BEING ON TEAM.. NOT SO IN MICHEAL VAUGHN'S CASE.. HE 'WAS' SIGHNED AS A FREE AGENT BY THE COWBOYS..HE WAS WONDERFUL TEAMMATE AT SOUTHERN U.JANCY BRILES NEEDS TO DO MORE RESEARCH.. VAUGHN WAS WITH DALLAS B4 JERRY JONES OWNED THE COWBOYS.. I THINK.. AS FOR S.U. RECORDS OF NOTABLE FORMER PLAYERS. I THINK ANY COLLEGE CAN TRACT ALLLL OF IT'S FORMER PLAYERS.. THE LIST ABOVE FOR SOUTHERN DOES NOT HAVE GEORGE FARMER(L.A. RAMS) CLEVELAND GREEN (DOLPHINS) JAMES DAVIS (RAIDERS) 'BROOKS'--D.TACKLE OF THE REDSKINS..THAT RECCENTLY PASSED ALSO ATTENDED S.U. IF I AM NOT MISTAKEN.. BOTH SOUTHERN AND DALLAS HAVE INCOMPLETE RECORDS. OOO DID I MENTIION TYRONE JONES FOR SOUTHERN..HE PLAYED IN THE CANADINA LEAGUE, "GIBS" A FORMER S.U. QB, CANADIAN LEAGUE, does AENEAS WILLIAMS RING A BELL,N RALPH WILLIAMS OF N.O. SAINTS, BACK IN THE 80'S.. DO YR RESEARCH.. GOOD LUCK MIKE.
@tartofmind7
What the heck does his marital status, sexual orientation or his belief system have ANYTHING to do with his capabilities as a member of our government? See where those lying, cheating, "married","heterosexual" and "god-fearing" politicians have gotten us. Learn your lessons from the past.
Funny how the "D" for Democrat doesn't show up in this story. If he was a "R", you bet it would. I had to search to find out what should be pertinent information about this liar.
Dave your article makes my butt water. GO TECH! Long live the Gordon Geek brotherhood!
Fucking Cowboys fuckers
Politicians and lawyers are professional liars. It's a fact. What really bugs most intelligent people is that our media is now just as bad. The mainstream media has their agenda and plays fast and loose with the facts as a rule, sometimes even fabricating stories completely. And they wonder why ratings and newspaper sales are way off? The moral compass of the mainstream media has been broken for some time. They also consider most American's to be un-enlightened, or just plain stupid. It is they who do not have a clue........
Remember George O'Leary? You know, the college football coach from Georgia Tech that was getting ready to take the head coaching job at Notre Dame when it was discovered his resume lied about his ealier schooling and coaching career. ND dismissed him, and there went O'Leary's dream job. Seems to me the people of MD need to take action at the voting booth for "embellishment" of this public servant's record. Principles and character are so important and what is missing with the majority of our representatives, including our president.
I enjoyed reading this article until I came across your description of the Marine Corps Reserves as a "sort of the practice squad of the Marines." Mr McKenna, please visit the following website:

http://icasualties.org/Iraq/Fatalities.aspx

There, you can quickly apply a filter to examine all of the Marines, Soliders, Airman, and Navy reservists who have paid the ultimate price while serving in "practice squads."

Mr. McKenna, you are an ass.

Semper Fi,

Kevin Horgan
USMCR '95-'03
L.Terry, you are a liar. This schmuck never played for the Cowboy's, nor did he EVER step foot on our practiced field. This guy is a liar, and all you idiots in DC that vote for him are just as stupid. Are there any people that are worth a crap in DC, government or civilian?

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