Hebron making a run to make it with Eagles Ex-Gibbons star gaining attention

August 13, 1993|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,Staff Writer

Vaughn Hebron is just a rookie in his first NFL camp, but he already has made at least a couple of big-name Philadelphia Eagles veterans take notice.

To Pro Bowl quarterback Randall Cunningham, Hebron is "Scooter" for squeezing through the smallest of holes. To Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, Hebron is "Juice," O. J. Simpson's nickname.

Hebron, a Cardinal Gibbons graduate trying to make the Eagles as a free-agent running back, said: "Randall's really broken the -- ice. He's a cool guy. And when there are things I do in practice that maybe the coaches don't see, Herschel recognizes, and tells me I'm doing well.

"But I still can't get over the fact that people are paying to see these guys perform, and I've gotten to see it free every day."

Hebron, 5 feet 8, 196 pounds, from Virginia Tech, is the Eagles' leading rusher after two exhibition games. He has 86 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown heading into their third preseason game tonight against the New York Jets.

Hebron's efforts have Eagles coach Rich Kotite considering adding a fifth running back to a group that already includes Walker, Heath Sherman, Siran Stacy and James Joseph.

"Hebron is an elusive kid and a tough kid," Kotite said. "Versus blitzes, he's stepping right up and taking on everyone, no matter what their size is. The kid is a player. He has the poise of a veteran.

"I'd like to get him in with the first group at some point," Kotite said. "He's done everything we've asked of him and more."

But Kotite's sentiments are no guarantee, Hebron said.

That's why he played with a broken hand suffered on Aug. 14, the second day of training camp. And that's why he'll play through the pain of bruised ribs this week.

"I can't let injuries stop me. As a free-agent rookie, the odds are stacked against me," said Hebron, 22.

"I have faith in my abilities, and mental preparation is overlooked a lot, I think," Hebron said. "But that's what separates the best at this level, especially when you're hurt. When you play through pain, coaches like to see that."

Against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Hebron slashed and spun for 52 yards on 10 carries -- all after entering the game with nine minutes left in the third period.

Hebron's coach at Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer, was watching the game on TNT.

"[Commentator Pat Haden] kept saying, 'He runs bigger than he but I wasn't at all surprised by the way he ran. If you noticed, he blocked just as fearlessly," Beamer said. "I've told people Vaughn's a professional-type player."

Though an ankle injury forced Hebron out of four games as a senior at Virginia Tech, he had a team-high 579 rushing yards.

"If he stays healthy," Beamer said, "there's no way they'll keep him out of the lineup."

They couldn't keep him out of the end zone at Gibbons, where he became the school's first four-year starter, had 3,003 yards rushing and set a school record for career touchdowns with 62. As a senior, Hebron -- who also played linebacker and free safety -- rushed for 1,701 yards and 30 touchdowns, leading the Crusaders to the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference crown. He was named The Sun's Offensive Player of the Year.

"He had more desire than anybody I've ever coached, being a good student, and in sports, not wanting to let anyone beat him in anything," Gibbons coach Frank Trcka said of Hebron, who set school track records in the long jump (24 feet) and the 100 (10.8 seconds) and 200 (21.9) meters.

The Eagles may be glad the Catonsville native slipped through the eight-round draft, but his agent, Kevin Fitzpatrick, wasn't.

"Injury concerns and Vaughn's size didn't help, but most guys get a call from somebody later on. Vaughn didn't," said Fitzpatrick, who helped him sign after contacting running backs coach Richard Woods.

"Not being drafted was a shock that hit him pretty hard, but it's made him hungrier to show he belongs."

Though he was impressive in the June rookie camp, Hebron said, "There were still questions because of my size. "There are always going to be questions about my toughness. Like when we're in pads, 'Can he take a professional hit? Is he one dimensional? Can he run up the middle?' " Hebron said.

"We were in pads the first day of training camp, and I constantly worked hard. It's the practice time, for a rookie, that gets you on the field. Then it's what you do in the game to impress the coaches.

"I'll keep staying positive. I don't want it to come down to, 'Vaughn, you've been great, but . . .' I won't breathe easy until they say, 'You're an Eagle, congratulations.' "

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