The family conflict probably will begin shortly before the national anthem.
Danielle Kalil will step to the microphone at Sunday’s game between the Vikings and the Carolina Panthers at the Metrodome to belt out the “Star Spangled Banner.”
On one sideline will be older brother Ryan, a Pro Bowl center for the Panthers. On the other will be younger brother Matt, a Pro Bowl offensive tackle for the Vikings. Family members, including parents Frank and Cheryl, will be in the stands.
Danielle’s jersey will be an indication as to how the family is divided for the first meeting between the brothers as NFL players.
“It’s my home game, so they’re wearing Vikings stuff,” Matt said. “I told my sister, she better have a Vikings shirt or jersey on. Better be no Carolina stuff this game.”
Ryan laughed when he heard that but admitted it was possible: “Hey, I’ve been trying to bribe her all week to wear Panthers stuff.”
Ryan, 28, was a second-round choice (59th overall) by Carolina in 2007 and has made three Pro Bowls. He missed most of last season because of a foot injury, but his brother calls him “probably the best center in the NFL.”
Matt, 24, was the fourth overall pick by the Vikings last season. At 6-7 and 305 pounds, he’s 5 inches taller (and 5 pounds heavier) than Ryan.
“Matt was always a little more athletic and a little bit more well-rounded as an athlete than I was,” Ryan said. “When he was young, he showed signs of being a lot bigger, too. He always had these huge shoe sizes — he was either going to be real big or join the circus. By his sophomore year of high school, he grew into his frame, and it became clear he was going to be a pretty good player.”
Says Matt: “When the play is done, my brother is done with the play. He has a little nicer side to him. I’m usually the one getting the personal fouls. I’m not proud of that, but I like to play a lot more aggressive and get after guys. Not to say Ryan doesn’t, but I probably get a little more nasty out there.”
The Kalil brothers were coached by Frank, a former USFL player, during their formative years and were both standouts at USC. Frank Kalil runs the Corona (Calif.) Chargers Junior All-American Football Squad. Cheryl, like Danielle, was a model and was Miss California in 1981.
“I always appreciated that my dad wasn’t one of those of trophy dads,” Ryan said. “He was an incredible teacher and he’s a big part of our success.”
Matt said he grew up motivated by Ryan’s success, and was eager to start football at age 8.
“My dad has always been there, never really forcing football on us — it’s always something that we wanted to do,” Matt said. “He just said if we want his help, it’s going to be his way or he’s not going to help us. That’s what he always made very clear.”
Frank still gives his sons advice, and the boys talk frequently about football, but Matt gets a little extra help because Ryan still is looking out for his little brother.
“I’m like a second dad for him,” Ryan said. “As soon as all the games have been played, the league sends out all the copies to all the teams, and we have immediate access to them. I try to watch his game and see how he did. If I’m ever off and get a chance to watch him live, I’ll tell you, it’s nerve-racking.”
If Ryan has a little extra edge today, it’s because he’s a bit busier. He and his wife, Natalie, have two daughters and are expecting a son.
“I told Matt there’s this extra ‘dad strength’ I heard about for years that I understand now,” Ryan said, “because minding the kids is like doing a workout all day long.”