Matt Kalil 'couldn't picture myself any other place' than with Vikings
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Matt Kalil had a hunch he was going to end up with the Minnesota Vikings.
Well, more than a hunch.
Not only did Kalil believe the Vikings would select him in the first round of the NFL Draft, the left tackle out of Southern California said on Thursday night he was "really relieved" when he saw a Minnesota number on his cell phone while they were on the clock after trading back to No. 4.
"I think that I had an idea that's where I might end up," Kalil said. "But the way the draft works, and especially right now, all these trades going down and everything, I was trying to keep open-minded."
He was scheduled to arrive in the Twin Cities early Friday and meet with reporters at 1:30 p.m., along with fellow first-round pick Harrison Smith.
The following is a transcript from Kalil's short conference call with the media on Thursday night:
They had dinner with you and your family in Minnesota during your visit. How did you feel about the whole process here?
"Definitely. Out of all the visits I took, Minnesota was the only place where I could really see myself living and spending the next 10 years and finishing out my football career there. I knew some people that went to Minnesota and a lot of players that played there. They said there's no other place like it, especially the fanbase that Minnesota has -- it's probably the best in the NFL. So, as soon as I was picked there, I knew I was going into a great place and a great team as well."
What did you say when the Vikings called about picking you at No. 4?
"It was (general manager Rick) Spielman. He just said, 'Are you ready to get this over with?' Quote for quote, I just said, 'Hell yeah' and I told him I was ready to be a Viking and ready to get this started. That was really exciting and I talked to the whole offensive coaching staff, they were all excited, so I'm ready to go over there and do a great job for them."
What do you think about the prospect of going against Jared Allen every day in practice?
"I'm definitely excited for that, the competitor that I am. I know he's going to make me a great player, especially the division the Vikings are in. The Chicago Bears, going against Julius Peppers, and then my old teammate, Clay Matthews, going against him for Green Bay. It's definitely a league of great pass-rushers and great defensive ends. It's going to be good going against the greatest defensive end in the whole league, in the NFL, Jared Allen, and I'm very excited for that."
What are your strengths as a player?
"I think it's not one specific area. I think it's my overall game, and what I try to do as a player is kind of develop those skills evenly. I love to run block, I love to pass protect, and it's just about training hard in the offseason, working on technique and improving my overall game."
Do you know any of the guys up here?
"Yeah, I know Geoff Schwartz, who played with my brother (Ryan Kalil). I know him really well. I know Butch Lewis, who is also on the team, played as SC. Everson Griffen, we're good friends, and then Jeff Davidson, who actually coached my brother when he was offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers. So, it's going to be cool going there and seeing some familiar faces and getting to know some of my new teammates."
What part of your game do you need to work on, making the transition to the NFL?
"It's hard to say until I really go against some NFL-caliber players. But I'm my toughest critic. For me, I'm never going to say one aspect of my game -- I'm going to say my whole game. When I watch film of myself, there are a lot of times I'm not pleased, because no one's a tougher coach than myself. I'm always looking to improve on everything -- run blocking, pass blocking and just every aspect of my game."
Did you play right around 300 pounds at USC?
"Yes, at USC, I was about 300 pounds. Right now, I'm about 310 (up from 306 at the NFL scouting combine in February). So, through January up until now, I've put on some nice, solid, healthy weight and I wasn't trying to put it on too fast, because being brought up for me, especially my dad (former college and USFL center Frank Kalil), one thing he taught me is you don't want to sacrifice weight for speed, because in the NFL, quickness and speed and the burst off the ball is everything. I made sure that the weight I was putting on was good, lean weight and wouldn't slow me down."
How much of your run scheme at USC was zone plays as opposed to power and gap scheme type of stuff?
"Every once in awhile, we'd run power, but we were mostly a zone scheme-type running game, wide zones and inside zone running. But I'm pretty familiar with what the Vikings do and I think it'll definitely be an easy transition going from SC to the Vikings."
When did you start thinking you would be a Viking?
"I think when I visited. I got good vibes from a lot of the coaches. They were telling me they really wanted me, and once they figured out what they were going to do, they really considered picking me wherever they were going to pick. Really, I got good vibes from there, but still anxious to find out, but it all worked out and I really couldn't picture myself any other place."
What was your thought process when you saw the Vikings drop to No. 4? Did you still think you were going to them?
"For me, I think that kind of made me more confident, because they didn't trade too far down. I told Spielman, 'I want to play for you guys and I want to be the blindside protector for your team for the next 10 years.' When I saw them trade that pick, it kind of almost made me feel better that they weren't going to trade too far down and they were going to try to get me. It seemed like before that happened, it forever for them just to call me and tell me I was going to be a Viking. So, I was really excited."
Spielman and Leslie Frazier have already talked about penciling in you as the starting left tackle. What does that mean to you?
"It means a lot, and it comes with the responsibility of being the top-10 pick, especially being a first-rounder. A team's picking you that early because they want you to contribute right away and I'm definitely ready for that. I wouldn't have left SC if I didn't think I was ready to take on this role, and I'm very confident in what I can do on the field, and all I can do is go in the facility, work as hard as I can, stay there the whole offseason and do whatever I can so when I step on that field, I'm ready."