In 1993, after 14 years, the NFL reduced its annual college draft to eight rounds. That left many talented players who were not selected, free to tryout with any team. Vaughn Hebron was one of those players. But why did the Virginia Tech running back sign with the Eagles?
"They were the first team that called," said Hebron. "You go through all that waiting and at that point you just want to get in someone's camp. My agent was thinking from a different vantage point. He said, 'Let's address what team's needs are. Where are they at the running back position?' Because there were several teams that called. I was like, 'The Eagles called first, let's go!'
"When you look back on it, if you chose the way you were supposed to choose the team at that point, the Eagles wouldn't have been the team. Herschel Walker just finished his first season (in Philadelphia) and had over 1,000 yards. And he wasn't even the offensive player of the year for the Eagles that year! It was Heath Sherman. You had James Joseph, who was a utility back and did it all. And they drafted Siran Stacy the year before in the second round, and Tony Brooks in the fourth round, so this was not the place to go. But I said, 'You know what? If it's meant for me to be in the pros, it will happen."
It didn't take long for Hebron to convince himself that it was meant to happen.
"Now that I look back and knowing the game the way I do and the business aspect, this is something that I never should have said or thought, but I really, truly, after mini-camp, knew I could play at that level," Hebron said. "It comes down to somebody giving you an opportunity. Sometimes you just don't get an opportunity through the numbers game as far as how many players are there, what they're able to do ahead of you, different motivations; there are a lot of things that go into it.
"So for me after one three-day mini-camp thinking that I should be on this team is crazy. But I literally thought that. The minute I was able to run around the guys and see what they could do, I thought, 'If they give me a shot I can make this team.'"
Whether the Eagles were going to give him a shot or if he was just going to take it himself, Hebron's mindset during training camp was to be noticed.
"I wanted to make a play, at least a 'Wow!' play, every practice," he said. "I mean, yes, you want to do a great play every play, but you want to at least make a 'Wow!' play every time you went on the field. Every day, every practice, every session, I wanted the coach to say my name.
"Most people don't try to bring it every day. So that was my approach because I knew my number one competition was Siran Stacy. Obviously he had a huge head start on me just from a business standpoint; they had so much invested in him being a second-round draft pick, I knew they wanted him to play. So my attitude was every day try to bring it.
"Every day I wanted them to talk about me and not Siran. Siran was the type of guy that when he made a play, he would coast. He figured, 'OK, that's going to hold me for awhile.' Where my attitude was if I made one play, I wanted to make two. If I made two, I wanted to make three. And so on."
Hebron was Philadelphia's third-leading rusher in 1993 and '94; totaling 622 yards and five touchdowns. He also co-led the team in kickoff returns during his second season. His third season, however, was spent on Injured Reserve after tearing the ACL in his right knee in training camp.
After moving on to Denver where he helped earn two Super Bowl championships, Hebron concluded his six-year NFL career in 1999.
He then returned to the Philadelphia area, where seven years ago he founded VMS Movement Specialists in Newtown. "I remember after my ACL, I became consumed in injury prevention. So even though I worked hard, I realized in doing so and starting to study about injury prevention, that I worked hard but I didn't work as smart as I needed to. So working on flexibility, my core strength, and things of that nature not only prolonged my career, but also made me improve my total fitness."
VMS offers performance enhancement training which includes indoor cycling, yoga, weight management programs, physical therapy, chiropractic care, pilates, and massage.
"It's a fitness center, but actually it's more or less a personal training studio," said Hebron. "I do one-on-one clients and I do groups and I've truly created a family, if you will. I have upwards around 300 clients. A lot of people ask me, 'Do you miss the game?' I obviously miss Sundays. But for the most part, you miss the locker room in general, the relationships that you create and the camaraderie. I wanted to create my own locker room. And that's the relationships I have with my clients and the relationships we have with each other."
During the football season, Hebron also works as a television football analyst for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. Sundays, he is on the Eagles Pregame Live and Eagles Postgame Live shows. And on Monday evenings, he can be seen on the 30-minute highlights show, Eagles Extra.
He and his wife, Kim, have five children: Vaughn, 19; Saloni, 11; Savion and Savaughn, 9; and Sanaa, 5.