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A chip off the same block
The opinions and analysis contained in this feature represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of the Seahawks' coaching staff and personnel department.
Saying that Matt Kalil was born to play in the NFL might be a stretch, but not by much.
His brother, Ryan, is a three-time Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers and was a member of the 2003 and 2004 national championship teams at the University of Southern California. His father, Frank, also played center and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 before playing for the USFL’s Arizona Wranglers and Houston Gamblers.
Now comes Matt, a 6-foot-6, 306-pound chip off the same block who also played at USC and is the top-rated linemen in this year’s draft class – and is even being called the most-gifted lineman produced by the Trojans since Tony Boselli.
|2012 NFL DRAFT|
This is the fifth in a series of articles previewing the three-day NFL Draft. Today: Offensive line. Friday: Defensive line.
Seahawks Draft party: Thursday, April 26, CenturyLink Field Event Center, 4 p.m. More information available here.
“He’s everything that he’s billed to be,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, which is saying a lot.
“He’s big-time. He’s physically equipped. He’s got a toughness about him, which he had as a freshman in high school.”
Carroll would know, because he recruited Kalil to USC and then coached him there before joining the Seahawks in 2010.
“I’ve really watched him for years and years as he’s progressed to get to SC,” Carroll said. “He’s just equipped with all the elements that you need. He’s got great length to him. He’s tough. He’s smart. He understands the game. He’s got great feel.”
Not to mention those impressive genes.
“What my dad did was do a great job of raising me and my brother,” the younger Kalil said the NFL Scouting Combine. “He definitely didn’t force football on us. It was definitely a choice we wanted to make. But he made it clear that 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.”
The Kalil brothers obviously made the right choice of sport, and mentor.
“His dad played, and his dad was a coach who brought up Ryan,” Carroll said.
And where Ryan went, Matt was sure to follow.
“My brother has almost kind of laid out the path for me,” Kalil said of Ryan, who selected in the second round of the 2007 draft. “Going through SC and going through the draft process, I’ve always had my brother there to help me and telling me everything to expect. Having that tool there to help me in any way possible has definitely been a big help.”
The question now, as teams are making their final preparations for the first round of the draft next Thursday: Just where will Kalil end up?
The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins are expected to select quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III with the first two picks. Then, it’s up to the Minnesota Vikings, who hold the third pick.
“Matt Kalil has a chance to be a top-five, top-seven, maybe at worst top-10 left tackle in the NFL when it’s all said and done,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said this week. “If (the Vikings) stay at three, I’ll be surprised if the pick is not Kalil.”
At the combine, Vikings vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said, “Kalil is very talented at left tackle. He has all the feet and skill set that you’re looking for. He has the arm length (34½ inches). He has the nasty demeanor. The finish, when you want him in tape, to finish run blocks.
“I feel he’s going to be a very good left tackle in this league as he grows in the position and moves forward.”
Kalil nodded as Spielman’s assessment was repeated, until it got to the part about the nasty demeanor.
“I wouldn’t say nasty,” Kalil said. “But I think I’m an aggressive player. I definitely like to finish, from the snap to the whistle. And like I said, impose my will on opponents and basically let them know that I’m on the field and I’m going to be on the field for the rest of the game.
“That’s where I get my demeanor from.”
Kalil is just as sure that if it’s a tackle you want, he is that tackle.
“I would definitely say I am the best tackle in the draft,” he offered with a no-brag/just-fact tone and delivery. “Especially at my position, or quarterback position or any big-time position, confidence is definitely a big part of your game. And I think (teams) want to hear that you do think you’re the best tackle. And I think I am.
“And I think I’ve worked hard going through SC, working on everything I can to become a better player.”
But even more importantly than thinking he is the best tackle in this draft class, Kalil has played like he is.
He was selected as an All-American and voted the Morris Trophy as the top lineman in the Pac-12. That’s why Kalil decided to pass on his senior season and enter the draft.
“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish there,” Kalil said. “And I think it was definitely time for me to move on and take my skills to the next level.”
Kalil will get no argument from his former college coach.
“He’s going to be a terrific player,” Carroll said. “There’s nothing to keep him from playing right away.”