CHARLOTTE – Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei arrived at the NFL Scouting Combine two months ago with different itineraries, but the defensive tackles soon found themselves on the same page.
Now they're on the same team, and Short is looking forward to taking the friendship forged at the combine and turning it into a powerful kinship on the field.
"We're going to create havoc," Short said. "We're going to do what we do best. He was at Utah and I was at Purdue, so now we'll just put it both together and try to help out the ends around us and just the whole defensive line in general."
While a hamstring injury prevented Short from taking part in drills at the combine, Lotulelei arrived with the intention of working out, only to have doctors discover a possible heart problem that was later dismissed. Barred from drills, Lotulelei stumbled upon Short, and the two quickly struck up a friendship.
"We became close friends," Short said. "We've got a different type of game, but we can both do a lot of great things on the field together."
Both were potential first-round picks, but Short slipped to the second round of last week's defensive tackle-deep draft. That worked out just fine for the Panthers, who pounced on Short with the 12th choice of the second round after selecting Lotulelei with the 14th pick of the first round.
"I've been given a great opportunity," Short said. "I've just got to take advantage of it."
Short grew up in basketball hotbed Indiana and was pretty good on the hardwood, teaming with future Purdue star and NBA player E'Twaun Moore to win a 4-A state championship at Central High School in East Chicago, Ind.
But once Short played organized football for the first time in eighth grade, he began to view basketball as his Plan B.
"The first day I started playing football, I was out there on the field and I felt like this could be me for the rest of my life," Short said. "That's the mindset I stuck with and carried it on.
"I mean, I love basketball don't get me wrong. The way I looked at it, if push comes to shove and I didn't do anything for football as far as getting scholarships, I would try to make basketball the next option. But pretty much I had my mind set that I was going to do what I needed to do to get to the next level in football."
As it turned out, Purdue was the only Football Bowl Subdivision school to offer Short a scholarship, so he headed 100 miles south of his hometown for the next chapter of his football life. After redshirting as a freshman, he steadily ascended to an elite prospect, from a Big Ten All-Freshman team selection to second-team All-Big Ten to first-team All-Big Ten and finally to second-team All-American last season.
A Purdue team that ended up 11th in the Big Ten in total defense last season asked a lot – perhaps even too much – of Short.
"At the weight I was playing at, 320 plus, I wasn't built to play that many snaps," he said. "But I also had the mind to compete and win, so as far as tapping my helmet to come out, that just wasn't me."
Now, as Short starts anew on the next level – on the ultimate level – he won't face quite the same burden, not with Lotulelei in the mix and veteran Dwan Edwards back for another season. He's expected to significantly upgrade the interior of the Panthers' defensive line, but he doesn't have to do it alone.
"We can do a lot of good things on the defensive line," Short said. "As a rookie you're going to come in at the bottom of the depth chart. I want to come in and compete, and everything else will open up from there."