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The Panthers’ Kawann Short, an EC Central graduate, has played a key role on the line of defense.

Jim Hunsley

The large, bold and colorful mural on the outside wall of the Columbus Drive Gyros hits you like a storm surge as you enter the building.

It’s a life-size painting of the hometown hero Kawann Short, a defensive device for the Carolina Panthers in his # 99 uniform, triumphantly holding the Super Bowl 50 trophy in his right hand, an event that shouldn’t have happened.

Across northwest Indiana, there were banners, placards, and encouragements across town in support of the EC Central Grad. Social media kept him in touch with the area on a daily basis, as if he were recording everything on the corner of Chicago Avenue and Indianapolis Boulevard.

A particular banner stretched across Columbus Drive on Alder Street proclaimed, “East Chicago is proud of our hometown of Kawann Short. We are East Chicago – Super Bowl 50. Go Panthers! “

This 10 by 10 foot mural on Columbus Drive Gyros was painted on January 28th by the artist known as Fhat Cousins, who spent eight hours working on his love affair.

“I’m 6 feet and I have yet to see,” said restaurant owner John Troupis. “It’s a win-win for the city because it went viral on social media. People always stop and take pictures of it.

“Kawann loved it and ended up sharing it (on social media). A fire was lit among everyone to attend the celebration. “

EC Central and Middle School soccer players watched the 2016 Super Bowl in the high school mini-theater with a pre-game video message from Kawann Short.

“I’ve seen so much of the love that comes from home. It’s sincere and from the heart, ”he said on the phone before the game. “East Chicago is not very big. It’s only got about 30,000, but they respect people who get out and do things with their lives.

“And if you do, they’ll be happy to jump on board and support you 100 percent.”

Short, the 44th overall winner on the 2013 draft, rose from five sacks in the first two seasons to 11 in 2105-16 – a team record for defensive tackles ahead of the NFL championship game.

But what the students of the game really notice are 11 sacks, 55 tackles and three forced fiddling by a 4-3 interior fitter who is also a violent pass-rusher on the verge.

Short has gone from being a player who flashed the screen once in-game to a surefire pro bowler.

“I’m out here right now, doing what I do and trying to help this team win. It’s the only thing I can ask or work on, ”said the 6-foot-3, 315-pound short.

Short has partnered with Athletes for Charity, HealthLinc, and the East Chicago Fire and Police Departments to create academic incentives for the benefit of the youth. He started a youth literacy project to provide books and academic incentives to children who need encouragement about reading and academic achievement.

“They always come back. They’ve never forgotten their city and that’s what’s so great, ”said Steve Segura, East Chicago multimedia director.

Getting involved and sending a positive message can work wonders in any setting.

“Some people play this game between the ages of 16 and 17 and haven’t been to the Super Bowl. I’ve played for three years and I’m here, ”said Short, who had a video message for the city’s soccer players watching the Super Bowl 50 game in high school:

“I was in your position and in the same places many years ago. I had a vision and a dream to be where I am today, ”said Short. “East Chicago … you guys were 100 percent behind my back. I appreciate you for being there and showing love and support. You were amazing Have a blessed day. “

As children, E’Twaun Moore and Short would often stop at Columbus Drive Gyros for a bite to eat after school. It was a popular hangout with their basketball teammates.

E’Twaun was the Star Point Guard and Kawann was a power forward in the 2006-07 Cardinals team. Owner John Troupis remembered how the players had assured him in front of the sections that they would win the 4A championship.

He made a deal. Win the state and it’s all you can eat.

The Cardinals went through the tournament – they defeated Lowell, Munster, South Bend Adams, Valparaiso and Marion – for a shot in Indianapolis North Central with high school phenomenon Eric Gordon.

EC Central prevailed with 87-83.

It wasn’t long before Moore and Short, who had the trophy in hand, ushered the Cardinals into the Columbus Drive Gyros and said, “We’re really hungry!”

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