After sitting down with his family on Jan. 8 before returning to campus, junior defensive tackle Kawann Short decided to put the NFL Draft on hold and return to Purdue for his senior season.
“We just went over the pros and cons of staying and going,” Short said. “My senior year of high school I had to do a lot to get into college. As far as just taking the grades serious, I wanted to make sure my mother sees me walk across the stage. I want to graduate and do everything right.”
Short experienced a breakout junior season, ranking in the top six of the Big Ten in tackles for loss and sacks. He earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance against Ohio State.
“I had to step up as one of the older guys on the defensive line in the middle,” Short said. “I was playing in the shadow of Ryan Kerrigan and other guys before. In my mind, I had to follow in the footsteps of what those other guys did.”
Short said he first started thinking about leaving for the draft after Purdue’s Little Caesars Bowl victory, leaving him less than two weeks to make a decision.
“That whole week I thought I had time to rest, but every day was something different,” Short said. “’Should I go or should I stay?’ All of my family was blessed I had the opportunity to choose ... Nobody told me if I should go or stay.”
Short was a teammate of former Purdue basketball player E’Twaun Moore at East Chicago Central, where the pair led the school to a 4A basketball title in 2007. Moore said he thinks Short will benefit from returning for his senior season.
“I was with him with whatever decision he made,” Moore said. “He can only get better and he’s going to be even more ready for the next level.”
The NFL Draft Advisory board projected Short as a third round pick based off of strictly film, but the evaluation didn’t play a huge factor in his decision to return to Purdue.
“I felt like if I came back for my senior year, I could be one of the top draft picks next year,” Short said. “That was a good start to know where I’m at. There’s a lot more I can work on to better myself and better my game.”
Short said he wasn’t disappointed in the evaluation, as his goal entering the season was to distinguish himself as one of the top defensive linemen in the nation and be a potential third-round or higher draft pick.
“It was a great round I could have went in,” Short said. “The personal reasons are really what stood out in front of me.”
Short consulted two former Boilermaker defensive linemen in the NFL, Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal, for advice on his looming decision.
Neal was projected as a fifth round pick following the 2008 season before returning for his senior season and being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
Scouts pegged Kerrigan with a third round draft grade after his junior season. He came back to Purdue and garnered All-American honors before becoming the 16th pick in the draft by the Washington Redskins.
“Kerrigan told me to go the direction I was comfortable going,” Short said. “He really went through the motivation part. Mike Neal was being a true brother and mentor laying everything out. Both of their speeches were pretty amazing.”
Short said the firing of defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel was unexpected, but it wasn’t an issue when weighing his draft decision.
“After the bowl game, I thought everything was all good,” Short said. “A couple days later, I found out Coach (Emanuel) was leaving. It makes me wonder what will change now as far as the scheme that we run or the front we can go with.”
Short hasn’t talked to new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar yet. Tibesar has a background of running a 3-4 defense, although it is unknown if he will bring that defense to Purdue.
“It will make NFL teams look at me differently if I can play in both inside and outside (in a 4-3 and 3-4),” Short said. “I don’t know what defense or scheme he’s trying to run, I just have to step up and face it.”
Short could possibly play end in a 3-4 scheme. After Purdue suffered several injuries at the position, Short showed the versatility to move to the outside.
“It shows I’m not just the big guy in the middle clogging things up,” Short said. “Using the ability I have as far as footwork and hands to be able to move outside and get a few tackles opens up eyes that I can be effective at end.”
Short said he needs to work on improving his football IQ and becoming more physical before the Boilermakers host Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 1. He wants his name to be alongside SEC players as the top defensive linemen in the country and significantly boost his third round draft grade.
“This whole summer has to be (dedicated) to football and conditioning and not taking any days off,” Short said. “If I can do that, then everything should fall in place.”