Minnesota Vikings rookie Matt Kalil is a 308-pound beast of an offensive tackle. Hard to believe his high school coach, Troy Thomas from Servite (Anaheim, Calif.), says he was “just a tall, skinny guy” early on.
Indeed, Kalil was 6-foot-7, 210 pounds as a sophomore. He had a body better suited for power forward in basketball than the offensive line. But that hardly stopped him from tearing up the gridiron.
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“Usually when guys are that tall at a young age, they’re a little bit awkward,” Thomas said. “Matt was athletic and fast. You could tell right away that he was on a different level. He definitely had football instincts.”
The instincts came from Kalil’s bloodlines. His father, Frank, played center at Arkansas and Arizona before getting drafted by the Buffalo Bills. Matt also grew up playing with his older brother, Ryan, who is now a center for the Carolina Panthers.
Of course, Matt didn’t rely on his natural ability. After team practices, he would often drive an hour back home to do more drills with his dad. The results were evident.
“There was a huge difference in the little guy who played for us as a sophomore and developed into basically a grown man as a senior,” Thomas said.
By Kalil’s junior year, he tipped the scale at 240 pounds. He also grew as a leader and “really made sure the offensive line was doing their part,” according to Thomas. “He was very intense about protecting his running back and quarterback.”
Kalil never missed a practice in high school, always approaching the game with a tough-minded outlook.
“If you didn’t raise your game [at practice], you might get your head taken off,” Thomas said. “He wasn’t trying to hurt anybody — he was an intense guy.”
By the end of Kalil’s junior year, he was getting attention from the likes of Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska and USC. Kalil committed to the Trojans early.
Kalil grew to 281 pounds as senior, when he became an American Family Insurance ALL-USA selection. He was also rated the nation's No. 11 recruit in the Class of 2008 by Rivals.com.
Kalil’s reign eventually continued at USC. As a junior, he was an All-American who won the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12’s top offensive lineman. Kalil elected to forgo his senior season. He entered the NFL draft and was selected No. 4 overall by Minnesota.
And as a rookie left tackle, Kalil has played a key role in Adrian Peterson's MVP-caliber season.
For more on Kalil's journey, visit www.nfl.com/etp.