Purdue's Kawann Short is full of surprises
BY KELLY HINES World Sports Writer
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 5:38 AM
DALLAS - When Kawann Short plays pickup basketball, he is full of surprises for those unfamiliar with his skills.
At 6 feet, 3 inches and 315 pounds, the Purdue defensive lineman is deceivingly athletic, as evidenced by his dunking prowess.
"Just being a 300-plus-pounder, not many people think I can dunk," said Short, who takes pride in drawing oohs and aahs from those watching.
A YouTube clip shows Short throwing the ball off the backboard and easily dunking it with one hand. Short, whose first name is pronounced KAY-won, has a background in basketball, having helped lead East Chicago (Ind.) Central High School to the 2007 Class 4A state title as a junior.
"Basketball is one of the things (that helps with agility), getting your hips and your footwork right," he said. "That transfers over to the field, and it shows a lot."
His leaping abilities helped Short set a school record with six career blocked field goals. He also has blocked a pair of extra-point attempts.
A senior, Short will close out a stellar college career Tuesday against Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. He has started all 49 of his games at Purdue and is second nationally among active FBS players in career tackles for loss (48).
After last season, Short seriously considered departing early for the NFL Draft after receiving a third-round grade from the advisory committee. But a promise to his mother, Yvonne Green, to graduate from college eventually won out.
Short graduated from Purdue two weeks ago with a degree in organizational leadership and supervision.
"She was bawling tears of joy," Short said of his mom at graduation. "It just made me shed a tear knowing that I made her happy, and that's one of the most important things I want to do."
Staying in school also helped Short elevate his game and boost his draft stock. He is 27th on Scout.com's list of the top 32 NFL Draft prospects and is ranked third on Mel Kiper Jr.'s list of senior defensive tackles.
"I've improved a lot, especially as far as mentally and the IQ of the game and just learning the game more, coming out here to practice every day and working hard and not taking plays off," Short said. "I feel like I did a great job on that this year."
The duo of Short and fellow defensive tackle Bruce Gaston (6-2, 303) has harassed offenses throughout the season and will look to do the same against the Cowboys.
"They are both pretty good players," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "That's kind of why they gave Notre Dame and Ohio State problems because they could just kind of clog up the middle and force them into, my opinion, what they don't really want to do."
The task of blocking Short falls to center Evan Epstein and guards Brandon Webb and Lane Taylor.
"We are prepared for him and we know he is a great player and we are excited to get in there and block against him," Epstein said. "He is a big boy. He is a lot faster than I think people give him credit for."
Short, a second-team All-America selection by the Associated Press, battled through an ankle injury for several weeks but is back to top form. He will play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26, but Tuesday will be his final game in a Boilermaker uniform.
"This group of guys will be together for the last time before we part ways," Short said. "This whole season has been a blessing with these guys. You grow feelings for these guys, and it's hard to leave."
Although Purdue's season (6-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big Ten) didn't turn out how Short hoped, he doesn't regret staying.
"Playing with this group of guys and these coaches, it was good to come back," he said. "I wouldn't change it for anything in the world."
Original Print Headline: Blocking Short tall order
Kelly Hines 918-581-8452
Purdue defensive lineman Kawann Short, pictured at practice in Dallas on Sunday, set a school record with six career blocked field goals. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World