MERRILLVILLE | Kawann Short has grown up.
He no longer is the good-natured teddy bear who couldn't see his feet as a freshman; the former two-sport prep star who could bend a crow bar and not think twice about it.
Short is all business, all the time.
Purdue's 6-foot-3, 310-pound senior defensive tackle has slowly become the force coach Danny Hope and National Football League scouts have been waiting for.
"We're really excited about him coming back to get his degree and to play his senior year. We're a lot better football team as a result of it," Hope said at Monday's Purdue Alumni Club gathering at the Radisson.
"He's really worked hard to take the next step as a player. He's reduced his body fat and increased his lean muscle mass, so he physically looks better and that will make a big difference in his stamina, which will allow him to play harder on more snaps."
Short was quite a handful as a junior, switching between tackle and end, to lead the Boilermakers in sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (17) and blocked kicks (2).
"He has the potential to be a dominant player at any point in time," Hope said. "He needs to continue pushing himself from a conditioning standpoint.
"He has a chance to do very well. He can play his way not only to the first round (of the draft), but be one of the top selections at his position in the country."
Hope said he's also anxious to see junior defensive tackle Ryan Isaac (6-5, 266) of Michigan City bounce back from surgery last season and make an impact.
"A very, very tough guy," Hope said.
Short knows he has to push himself to the max on every snap regardless of who he lines up with.
"There's a lot of pressure, but if I do what I'm supposed to, it'll all work out," Short said. "I won't be happy with my game until I see my name in the first round.
"But I've got to stay humble as well. As the good times come, they can be taken away just as fast."
Purdue finished 7-6 last season, capped by a 37-32 win over Western Michigan in the Little Caesar's Bowl.
"I think our defensive line can certainly be a strength of our football team," said Hope, who was just warming up. "We have a lot of good players back in the secondary, so that can be a strength of our football team.
"I think the quarterback position is certainly a strength of our football team. The speed of the skill positions will be a strength of our football team. We have a lot of areas one might consider to be the strength of our team."