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Penn State's Short ponders going pro

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Posted: Friday December 18, 1998 11:12 PM

  Brandon Short: "It probably will come down to where I will go in the draft" Rick Stewart/Allsport

STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (AP) -- When Penn State linebacker Brandon Short thinks about leaving school for the NFL in January, he thinks of his 3-year-old daughter living in the housing project, his brother in trouble with the law, his grandmother with the broken hip.

All three of them are in trouble. All three of them need the help he could provide by drawing a paycheck in the pros.

Not in a couple of years. Now.

"I have a 3-year-old daughter who is still living in the environment that I lived in. I don't like her living there. My grandma is in the hospital, and she needs money for someone to take care of her day-to-day when she gets out. I also have a brother who's in legal trouble," he said this week. "So there's a lot of reasons."

That said, a month before the deadline, it sounds as though leaving Penn State a year early without a national title would be just as much of a hardship.

"I came here for a ring," the 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker said. "It probably will come down to where I will go in the draft. Even if they say I might be a first-rounder, I might still come back because of my teammates and because I believe in this team. It'll be easier if they say I'm going to go in the fifth round."

He won't get a ring this year. No. 22 Penn State doesn't have much at stake in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Florida, against Kentucky -- except for some momentum to take into the spring.

But most of the players on the two-deep chart return in 1999, including much of the defense ranked among the best nationally. And if quarterback Kevin Thompson and the offense come around, next year could be good for the Nittany Lions.

All of which complicates Short's decision.

"I've thought about it a little bit, but to be honest with you, I don't know what I'm going to do," he said.

He'll talk to linebackers coach Tom Bradley, defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, his grandmother, Ozella Wilkes, and, most of all, to coach Joe Paterno.

"What he has to say will probably be the key determining factor in what I do," said Short. "I know he would only want me to do what is right for me. I respect him and his opinion so much."

Short, a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, leads Penn State with 67 tackles, including 15 for losses and 5 1/2 sacks. He was the leader of a newly aggressive defense that terrorized quarterbacks all season and tied a school record with 47 sacks. A year after collapsing, the Penn State defense is in the top 12 nationally in all four defensive categories.

Short, rightly so, is not sure that's enough for an early trip to the NFL, and December is not the easiest time to consider such heavy matters.

"I've got finals, papers, I'm talking to this guy, that guy. But I'm going to make it," he said. "I've been through rougher things that this."

He's not lying. Short's mother died when he was 2, his father has served time for drug convictions, and his brother is in prison for first-degree murder. His daughter, Karli, is still in the crime-infested Harrison Village in a suburb of Pittsburgh, McKeesport.

His rocky family past, as much as his bright future, plays in his decision now.

"It's very difficult, like, weighing all my options right now," Short said. "But I've had to make tougher decisions."

 
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