Vaughn Pemberton was a wrecking ball from the very beginning of his high school football career. The power and violence were always in his game.
That wasn’t enough. Being the big, strong running back landed him nothing but an offer from Northern Michigan, a Division 2 school.
“I was pissed about it,” Pemberton said. “I knew I had outplayed a lot of kids with Division I offers. I was just so mad.”
Pemberton works out with his Loyola teammate Josh Kreutz, the son of former Chicago Bear Olin Kreutz. It turns out a little bit of brutal honesty from someone he respected made an impact.
“Mr. Kreutz basically told me it was my fault that I didn’t have a D1 offer,” Pemberton said. “He said I had to work harder.”
The knock on Pemberton was his speed. So he fixed that. The 6-0, 210-pound senior terrorized the best defenses in the area this season. Pemberton climbed from the fourth string running back at Loyola his junior year to the Sun-Times Player of the Year as a senior.
Pemberton ran for 916 yards and scored 15 touchdowns in six games to help lead the Ramblers to an undefeated season and a wire-to-wire run as the top-ranked team in the Super 25.
“It almost made me feel like a bad coach to just keep giving him the ball and having him run over everybody,” Loyola coach John Holecek said. “[Pemberton] looks like an NFL player out there with his size and his big muscular back and the great stiff arm. And he has the vision to bounce things outside that you don’t think he should be able to.”