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March 25, 2013

Short gets his big chance

It had to be an un-nerving experience Monday morning for Kawann Short.

The former Boilermaker defensive tackle maintains hopes of being a first-round pick in April's NFL draft. Whether he will be or not may have been determined during his relatively brief morning workout in the Mollenkopf Athletic Center.

Representatives from at least 27 franchises braved the heaping snow to visit Purdue to check in on Short, for his first opportunity thus far to participate in such an event after he missed the NFL combine and Purdue's full-scale pro day due to a hamstring issue.

"It's harder than playing in front of thousands of people, just these couple people here," Short said, referring to the two dozen-plus scouts and coaches in Mollenkopf. "This will determine your future job right here. I was nervous coming in. I couldn't sleep last night. I just tried to give out the best effort that I could.

"It's like talking in front of a classroom, giving a speech. It's always harder to speak in front of 40 people than a thousand people. ... It was the most important job (interview) of my life, today was."

Turnout was excellent for Short's workout, at which former teammates Robert Maci, Josh Johnson, Akeem Shavers and Caleb TerBush also took part in some form or another.

Manti Te'o of Notre Dame's pro day in South Bend is Tuesday, perhaps helping Short's visibility by drawing scouts to snowy West Lafayette to begin the week.

But interest seemed serious. Among the NFL defensive line coaches in attendance Monday were Joe Cullen of the Cleveland Browns, Gary Emanuel of the Indianapolis Colts (and Short's former position coach at Purdue) and John Mitchell of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Detroit Lions assistant defensive line coach Jim Washburn sat Short down for an extended conversation.

The coaches in attendance saw Short, who played his senior season at 320-plus pounds, weigh in at 303 and run 5.05 and 5.10 seconds in the 40-yard dash, very good numbers for an interior lineman.

"A lot of times what they're looking at is how well they look doing it," said Purdue sports performance coach Duane Carlisle, who was the San Francisco 49ers' strength coach before coming to West Lafayette. "He was real smooth, not a lot of wasted motion. He looked athletic running as opposed to looking completely uncoordinated. The other thing is he looked light when he was running. That's another thing you're looking at."

In the weight room, Short put up 29 repetitions of 225 pounds, also a solid number.

"A couple guys I spoke to said I looked good, and the effort was there, but you just have to keep pushing yourself," Short said. "You have guys in the league who are going to push you, try to stick their foot down your throat and be in your face and try to get to you."

That's been the biggest question surrounding Short, he said.

"The main thing these guys talked about was that I'd tend to take plays off in a game and kind of fade away," the 2012 first-team All-Big Ten pick said. "I'm just trying to get that shape right and let these guys know I'm out here trying and putting out effort in everything I'm doing out here ... and show them I have the mentality to work and I don't quit."

Carlisle, who maintains a strong network within the pro ranks, believes Short helped himself Monday morning.

"His tape speaks for itself. At the end of the day, that's what they look at," Carlisle said. "They're concerned about his motor, and I think he answered some of those questions at the Senior Bowl, being the MVP of the game, and today, some of the stuff they took him through, he was able to show that. KK's got a huge upside."

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