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AL HAMNIK: Kawann Short tunes out the 'noise'

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youth sports: Kawann Short STEM Expo and youth football camp

E.C. Central grad and Carolina Panthers defensive tackle, Kawann Short, right, directs campers as they run plays Saturday during Short's annual STEM Expo and youth football camp at East Chicago Central High School.

EAST CHICAGO — Sometimes, you need a break from your job and all the "noise" that's so distracting.

For Panthers' defensive tackle Kawann Short, his free STEM Expo and Youth Football Camp Saturday at E.C. Central couldn't have come at a better time.

Moving from station to station with more than 200 excited kids ages 8 to 16 tugging at his sleeve was a picnic compared to the daily NFL grind.

"Just to get away from the intense workouts, the intense competition with the other players, and to get out here and teach these kids is definitely a breath of fresh air," Short said.

"There's so many different personalities here, it's crazy, man. It's not just a boys camp. It's for girls as well on the sports end and education part."

Campers also learned the importance of good grades, respect, discipline and civility. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

With NFL training camps opening later this month, the "noise" level in Charlotte, North Carolina will be as loud as a grade-school recess.

• You had owner Jerry Richardson selling the team to David Tepper after it was alleged in a Sports Illustrated report in mid-December that the 81-year-old Richardson engaged in workplace misconduct that amounted largely to sexual harassment of female employees and, in at least one case, of using a racial slur in addressing a since-departed African-American scout.

Richardson paid $206 million to found the Panthers — their first season was in 1995 — and sold the team for a league record $2.275 billion.

"I met (Tepper) a couple of times and he's a down to earth guy," Short said. "He only said a couple of words but they were impactful and I'm happy to see where we go from here.

"It's sad what happened (with Richardson) but at the end of the day, it's all a business. Knowing who he is from 2013 when I first got here until now, I feel he never treated me no different or said anything out of context around me. I can't really speak about what he's done behind closed doors."

• Carolina will have new coordinators on both sides of the ball this season, but Short sees no problem on defense. His previous two coordinators, Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks, each stayed for a season before taking head coaching jobs — McDermott with the Bills, Wilks to the Cardinals.

Longtime defensive assistant Eric Washington was promoted to DC, so the transition should be smooth as marble.

Since 2012, of its league-leading 280 sacks under Washington, the defensive line has created 219 of those to also be tops in the NFL.

Short had 7.5 sacks last season and has 29.5 in 80 career games.

• Another issue at the pro level that could also affect the future of youth football is the increase in chronic traumatic encephalopathy among retired NFL players.

It's been reported Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers, 75, is suffering from dementia which his family blames on his seven-year career with the Bears from 1965 to 1971.

At age 29, Kawann Short certainly knows the risks.

He has a 4-year-old daughter, Kamiyah, whom his life revolves around.

Friends and family worry constantly about his safety, not to mention those 46,000 followers on Twitter.

"Especially your ma and your grandma worry the most. But it's what we signed up for," said the 6-foot-3, 315-pounder. "You go into the Army knowing know what you signed up for: possibly coming home, possibly not.

"It's the same with football. You have to think of a positive outcome on every play."

Walking away from the game is difficult for players who can't stay on the field due to health reasons.

"I got a beautiful little daughter who depends on me, so I can't be out here, being selfish and keep getting hurt. I got to worry about taking care of her," Short said. "Hopefully, later on down the road, I can still play with her and be that dad that's active. That's my goal and hopefully God will see me through that.

"As a person, as a man playing this sport, you have to realize your legacy and what you leave behind."

After five productive seasons of handling the "noise", that legacy appears to be rock solid.

According to Pro Football Focus, Short ranked No. 2 among DTs last year in making first contact at or behind the line of scrimmage. Only Grady Jarrett of the Falcons had more.

Heading into the 2018 season, rates Short as the league's fifth-best defensive tackle.

"I wouldn't call it pressure. I'm from East Chicago," he said. "It's all good at the end of the day."

Any better and it would be the Hallmark Channel.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at


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