From NFL nobodies to CFL Colts somebodies

March 27, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

Marcus Badgett and Andre Vaughn slipped through the cracks of the NFL draft a year ago, victims of a cold, calculating system that relies almost solely on numbers.

For Badgett, the operative figure was 4.6 seconds, his time in the 40 yards. Too slow for a wide receiver, the NFL said.

For Vaughn, the number was two, as in knee operations and college seasons spent at defensive back. Too many operations, too little time, the NFL opined.

It is perhaps fitting, then, that the two former Maryland stars have resurfaced in the longer, wider, faster Canadian Football League. Both have signed contracts with the Baltimore CFL Colts, who launch their inaugural season in July.

"It's a dream come true," said Vaughn, an All-American running back at Oakland Mills in Columbia, who signed autographs during yesterday's fan appreciation day at Memorial Stadium. "I couldn't be in a better situation."

Vaughn and Badgett will be joined by a third former Terp when the Colts go to camp in late May -- defensive tackle Derek Steele, a late cut in two NFL camps.

Steele, 6 feet 4 and 270 pounds, held out over his signing bonus as a seventh-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1992. He came to camp two days late and $5,000 short, then got the ax. "No," he says now, "it wasn't worth it. I should have been out there."

Last year, after he was cut by the Washington Redskins, Steele appeared in one game with the Toronto Argonauts, where he found that NFL size didn't equate to CFL dimensions. "It's a game you've got to get used to, and you've got to be in shape, also," said Steele, who wasn't.

Of the three ex-Terps, Badgett might be the best suited for the rigors of the job. He will line up at the inside slot back position, where his route-running skills are a good match.

"What gives Marcus an advantage is he's been in [Maryland's] run-and-shoot and is used to running inside," said Jim Popp, the Colts director of player personnel. "He gets open."

Badgett, 24, had a breakout season in 1992 with the Terps, the first of the Mark Duffner regime. He caught 75 passes for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns, all school records. He had two 200-plus yard receiving games. But he didn't get drafted or invited to an NFL camp.

"They were messing with me about speed," he said. "They said I can't get deep. [But] I'm a person who goes across the middle."

To get to the CFL's bigger field, Badgett first had to go to Arena Football's smaller field. He had 25 catches and five touchdowns in six games, and even played linebacker with the Albany Firebirds. "It was a little weird at first," he said. "A lot of routes were shorter than I was used to running. Some routes you couldn't run, like the 15-yard out."

Vaughn, 24, took an equally circuitous route to the CFL. Undrafted in 1993, he spent the year working in the restaurant business in New York and an automotive parts store in Washington. He came back from major knee surgery in 1989 to play two seasons in Maryland's secondary.

Now he's trying to forge a career at either free safety or halfback.

"I think it's a great opportunity for someone like me who relies on speed and contact to make plays," Vaughn said. "The field is so huge, you have to be able to run. . . . If I can play as well as I played at Maryland, I should have no problems making the team."

NOTES -- More than 1,500 fans turned up at ColtFest yesterday. Scott Treherne of Baltimore won an expenses-paid trip to the Colts' opener in Toronto on July 7, and Tim Murray of Baltimore won two season tickets. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke gave a pep talk, and the Baltimore Colts' Band performed. . . . Former Orioles vice president Robert Aylward has agreed to become a consultant to owner Jim Speros to help negotiate concessions, and TV and radio contracts. . . . The team sold 62 dozen T-shirts yesterday.

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