Matt Kalil (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
Matt Kalil is projected as a top-five draft pick, and his baptism into offensive line play started at an early age. Youth football at the park meant something different in the Kalil family.
Matt Kalil’s childhood walks in the park with his father were a bit different from most young boys growing up. His steps were kick steps. His “games” of football with his older brother and father were more akin to an offensive line clinic rather than a game of soft toss or 500.
“For my dad, ‘Let’s play football’ means let’s go do kick steps and let’s work O-line drills,” Kalil said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “My first time going to Servite (High School in California), I tried to play tight end as a freshman and my dad went on the field and said ‘No, he’s playing left tackle.’ That pretty much ended that dream.”
It’s hard to know how accomplished Kalil might have become as a tight end – he says he would have made a “sweet” one – but he certainly couldn’t do much better than the reviews he is catching as the top left tackle in the 2012 NFL Draft.
He can thank his bloodlines, at least in part, for his success.
His father, Frank, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 and played for two USFL teams. Matt’s brother, Ryan, is a Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers.
Frank started bringing his sons to Butterfield Park in Corona, Calif., when Matt was a freshman in high school. Matt said the only reason a ball was brought to those sessions was to allow Ryan to snap while Matt played across from him as a defensive lineman.
“My brother was coming out of high school and about to go to the USC camp and me and (USC linebacker) Chris Galippo were one-on-one dummies and getting tossed around – bloody knees and all that, basically getting beaten up on every drill,” said Matt, now 6-foot-6.
While Kalil admitted he needs to improve his run blocking, he put on about six pounds, moving him up to 306 pounds, while training at Athletes Performance in Arizona.
The bloodlines don’t hurt, either.
“We could play whatever sport we wanted to and if we wanted to play football and if we wanted his help, it was going to be his way or he wasn’t going to help us,” Matt said of his dad. “So definitely that was a choice we made. And that’s what made it so great for us. We wanted to play football and we love the sport.”
The family history hasn’t escaped NFL personnel evaluators, either.
“I would say bloodlines are important,” Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. “You go the case of the (Clay and Bruce) Matthews family. Obviously, great bloodlines there. I think your chances are good that if a guy comes from a family of great players he might be a great player. That doesn’t guarantee anything, though.”
“… Genetics are obviously a huge part of lineage. But having grown up and been around the game and seeing what those before them did to be great players, it probably would help.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.