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Kawann Short returns to Purdue with goal of becoming a top-five NFL draft pick

Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short (93) plays during second quarter college football game against Michigan Ann Arbor Mich. Saturday Oct.

Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short (93) plays during the second quarter of a college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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Updated: August 29, 2012 12:27PM



CHICAGO — If there’s a preseason watch list for a defensive award, Kawann Short has been on it.

Bednarik Award. Nagurski Trophy. Outland Trophy. Lombardi Award. Lott IMPACT Trophy.

Not that the senior tackle for Purdue has been paying all that much attention — he typically finds out about such consideration from friends and family via phone, text or Twitter.

The East Chicago Central graduate knows that in order to earn the recognition, to confirm his status as an elite NFL prospect, to justify the general buzz surrounding him, he must perform in his final season with the Boilermakers.

And Short has been working diligently toward that end. Even though he was an All-Big Ten first-team selection last season — registering career highs in tackles (54.0), tackles for loss (17.0) and sacks (6.5), leading Purdue in the latter two categories — he knows he has more to give.

Short heads into this season in the best shape of his career. He hit the weights with a passion, conditioned with a purpose — including on his own, even on supposed “off” days. He altered his diet, dramatically limiting fast food and snacks.

Muscle up, body fat down.

“Just being consistent,” Short said on Friday at the Big Ten media days when asked about his goals for this season. “A lot of plays, I took off last year — I wasn’t really that dominant guy, then two seconds later, I’m that dominant guy again. That is really not acceptable; I’m really not that guy to be doing that. So it’s just being consistent, and doing what I need to do.”

That inconsistency largely stemmed from fatigue, an issue he seemingly has addressed with his intensified commitment to maximizing his talent, an uncommon combination of size (6-foot-3, in the neighborhood of 315 pounds) and athleticism (underscored by the 11 passes broken up and four blocked kicks in his Boilermakers career). He has the ability to stop the run, as well as rush the passer.

“More of his best, more of his best — his best on a consistent basis,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said when asked about what he wants to see from Short this season. “He can be one of the top players at his position in the country, not just in our league.

“He has exceptional potential, a lot of want-to. He’s really improved from a physicality standpoint. He’s in much better shape, he’s a leaner, more conditioned Kawann Short, he’s a more experienced Kawann Short. If he plays his best on a more consistent basis, he will really impact our team this season.”

And likely secure his financial future.

Short contemplated entering the NFL Draft after his junior season, his third straight as a starter after redshirting. But he opted to return to school, a decision predicated on two factors.

The first factor was a pledge he made to his mother, Yvonne Green, to get his diploma. And he’s on schedule to graduate in December, with a degree in Organizational Leadership and Supervision, especially meaningful considering he had to take classes the summer after he graduated from EC to gain eligibility as a freshman at Purdue.

“I made that promise even before my freshman year, and she wanted to see me walk across that stage — she kept telling me, ‘I can’t wait for you to walk across that stage,’” Short said. “And I said, ‘I promise I’ll do that for you, Ma. Anything to make you happy.’

“As far as being a graduate, it’ll feel good — that’s what my roommate (former Boilermakers safety Albert Evans, a Portage and Purdue grad) said, as far as having that alumni status and walking across that stage.”

The second factor was the third-round grade he received from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. That assessment was based on film; Short could have enhanced his stock in workouts. But another season in college seemed more beneficial for him. And he already has been widely projected as a first-round pick in 2013.

“I felt, in my mind, I could work myself to be way better with another whole year of preparation,” said Short, a two-time team captain.

“A lot of people have more confidence in me and the way I can work myself up, just doing what I need to do to be that dominant player, that dominant guy in the middle. I want to work my way up to the Top 5 — that’s one of my biggest goals right now, to get myself to that next level.”

And what about those awards?

“I was shocked, but I still have a lot of work to do,” said Short, remaining “humble” as the accolades have accumulated. “I can be nominated, but that doesn’t mean I won them all — my goal is to win them all.

“I still have to prove myself.”



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