Kalil is next in long line of talented USC tackles

For Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, football success

runs in the family.

His father, Frank, played pro football in the United States

Football League in the 1980s. His brother, Ryan, played center at

USC and now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

Matt followed Ryan to USC and became the latest in a line of

great Trojans tackles that includes Hall of Famers Ron Yary and

Anthony Munoz and former All-Pro Tony Boselli. Kalil is projected

to be a top-five pick in the draft and become the next great pro in

the Trojan pipeline.

Those factors make the 6-foot-7, 306-pounder confident that he

will be the best tackle available in April’s draft.

”At quarterback or tackle or any big-time position, confidence

is definitely a big part of your game,” he said. ”They want to

hear that you think you’re the best tackle and I think I am. I’ve

definitely worked hard going through S.C., working on every little

thing I can to be a better player. I’m definitely ready to take my

skills to the next level.”

Ryan has been helping his younger brother prepare for the NFL

for years.

”My brother’s almost kind of laid the path for me,” he said.

”I’ve always had my brother there to help me know what to expect

and kind of having that tool there to help me in any way

possible.”

Kalil recalls getting thrown around by his big brother in drills

as a youngster, an experience that helped him develop an edge.

”I wouldn’t say nasty, more of an aggressive player,” he said.

”I definitely like to finish all the way from the snap to the

whistle, impose my will on my opponent and basically let them know

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 that demeanor from.”

Kalil said his father didn’t force football on his sons.

”He made it clear that we could play whatever sport we wanted

to, but if we wanted to play football and we wanted his help, it

was going to be his way or he wouldn’t help us,” he said. ”It was

definitely a choice we made, and I think that’s what made it so

great for us, that we want to play football and we love the

sport.”

The USC tradition became even stronger last year. Tyron Smith,

another tackle, was the ninth pick in the 2011 draft, and he

started for the Dallas Cowboys this past season.

”Coming into S.C. with Tyron and knowing what a good player he

is, hopefully I can be half the player he is in the NFL,” Kalil

said. ”He’s an outstanding player and one of my good

buddies.”

The family history and the USC tackle tradition have heightened

expectations.

”It’s just a responsibility I have to take,” he said. ”I have

to work as hard as I can and do whatever I can to excel at the

position. But first off, wherever I get drafted, I’m not going to

be given a spot, I have to earn it. And that’s definitely something

I’m looking forward to doing.”

Kalil feels he can improve his strength and his run

blocking.

”You strive for perfection,” he said. ”You can never get

there, but you set a high goal for yourself just to become a better

player.”

Stanford left tackle Jonathan Martin believes he’s better than

Kalil. Their teams were Pac-12 rivals, and the two are friends who

respect each other. Stanford defeated USC 56-48 in three overtimes

last season, and Martin wouldn’t mind defeating Kalil again on

draft day.

”As a competitor, you’ve got to think you’re the best,” Martin

said. ”Matt’s a tremendous player, but I think I’m the best. I

believe in myself as a player. There’s nothing cocky about it, it’s

just that that’s how I approach my game coming into an event like

this.”

Kalil respects Martin.

”Me and John are good friends,” Kalil said. ”He’s a great

tackle. He’s really athletic, really big. One of the best tackles

I’ve seen. I’ve definitely watched him on film, and I have a

tremendous amount of respect for what kind of player he is, and

he’s definitely going to do a great job wherever he goes.”

Kalil doesn’t care who drafts him.

”What I’ve done through this draft process is do all I can to

show the coaches who I am, perform the best I can over here at the

combine, running, show my athleticism and basically do whatever I

can to become a better player,” he said. ”That’s all I can focus

on. I don’t have control of who drafts me, that has to do with the

coaches and owners.”

—–

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cliffbruntap