Reusse: First taste of Packers is Kalil's next drill

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 29, 2012 - 7:02 AM

Matt Kalil has shown he can handle NFL rigors, and has some history with big rivalry games.

Matt Kalil was well-versed in large rivalries playing high school football in California's Orange County. He was at Servite, an all-boys Catholic school in Anaheim, and the perennial powerhouse was Mater Dei, a coed Catholic school in Santa Ana.

The schools are separated by 12 miles of Interstate Hwy. 5. A Servite-Mater Dei game was such an attraction that Kalil's Friars twice played the Monarchs in Angels Stadium.

"We had 30,000 people at those games," Kalil said. "It helped prepare you for playing in front of bigger crowds at the next level."

The next level for Kalil was Southern Cal, where he was a redshirt with the Rose Bowl champs in 2008, then went through the NCAA investigation surrounding Reggie Bush and the sanctions that followed from 2009 through 2011.

There were those rivalry games with Notre Dame and UCLA, even if they did not mean as much as Kalil figured when he was brought in as a five-star recruit by Pete Carroll and his staff.

Now, in his rookie NFL season, Kalil is getting ready for a first taste of Vikings vs. Packers.

"I've got a feel for it, just from all the people I've met around town," Kalil said. "Vikings fans and Packers fans don't seem to like each other. It's definitely going to be fun to be part of it ... to be in Lambeau for the first time."

The Vikings equaled the worst 16-game record in franchise history -- 3-13 -- in 2011 and landed third in the draft. It was apparent for weeks that the first two picks would be quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III and the Vikings would then select Kalil as a desperately needed left tackle.

Somehow, General Manager Rick Spielman convinced Cleveland to trade up to draft running back Trent Richardson, providing the Vikings with the assets to both draft Kalil fourth and to move into the first round to take Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

Eleven games into his rookie season, the Vikings' enthusiasm for the 6-6 1/2, 308-pound lineman has been validated.

"Matt has been everything we expected," Spielman said. "The athletic ability clearly was there, and Jeff Davidson, our offensive line coach, worked hand and hand with Matt on the holes that he had.

"Everyone has a few of those coming out of college, and getting Matt up here to work on those with Jeff ... that had a lot to do with him being ready to compete very well from his first NFL game."

There's an interesting process with the elite prospects in any draft: For a few weeks after the college season, you hear about all their assets, followed by several weeks of hearing about their flaws.

"Yeah, by the time the draft comes, the top players have been picked apart so much that you don't want to draft anyone," Spielman said.

One of the opinions on Kalil that surfaced was that he wasn't a top-flight run blocker.

"Surprisingly, to some people, he's a very effective run blocker," Spielman said. "One reason for that is mobility. He can get to linebackers on the second level, which is important with the way people move around in today's defenses."

Asked on Wednesday about the theory he's an excellent pass blocker and so-so run blocker, Kalil said:

"I don't know where that comes from ... maybe because people said that coming out of the draft and it stuck. We have the leading rusher in the league. Adrian is getting over 100 yards a game.

"I don't know where the problem is.''

Kalil comes from a football family. His father, Frank, was a center and played in the USFL. His brother Ryan (now injured) is an offensive lineman with Carolina. That deep background in the game might have helped him reach this point without anything resembling a rookie meltdown.

"I stay pretty calm from one play to the next," Kalil said. "My dad told me years ago, 'Mistakes happen. If you don't realize that, you tend not to think clearly, and you're going to make another one.' "

Spielman said "patience" is what he sees with Kalil as a pass blocker.

"You get in trouble when you're jumping at a guy, when you're jittery," the GM said. "You don't see that with Matt. He lets the pass rush come to him.''

The Vikings let Kalil come to them at No. 4 -- and they couldn't be more satisfied.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

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Pittsburgh - LP: F. Liriano 0 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto 4
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Odorizzi 0 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: M. Gonzalez 3
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Hammel 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 3
St. Louis - LP: J. Kelly 1 FINAL
Milwaukee - WP: W. Peralta 5
NY Mets - WP: D. Gee 5 FINAL
Arizona - LP: B. McCarthy 2
Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran 1 FINAL
Philadelphia - LP: C. Lee 0
Chicago Cubs - LP: T. Wood 0 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Pineda 2
Cleveland - WP: Z. McAllister 3 FINAL
Detroit - LP: A. Sanchez 2
Washington - WP: D. Storen 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: M. Dunn 3
Seattle - LP: F. Rodney 2 FINAL
Texas - WP: P. Figueroa 3
Boston - WP: C. Capuano 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox - LP: L. Garcia 4
Kansas City - WP: D. Duffy 6 FINAL
Houston - LP: J. Williams 4
Toronto 0 Postponed
Minnesota 0
Oakland - LP: D. Pomeranz 4 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Smith 5
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 4
Los Angeles - LP: J. Howell 1 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: J. Machi 2
Chicago 86 FINAL
Charlotte 91
Indiana 101 FINAL
Orlando 86
Atlanta 111 FINAL
Milwaukee 103
Dallas 105 FINAL
Memphis 106
Detroit 111 FINAL
Oklahoma City 112
Houston 100 FINAL
New Orleans 105
LA Lakers 113 FINAL
San Antonio 100
Brooklyn 85 FINAL
Cleveland 114
Philadelphia 100 FINAL
Miami 87
Utah 136 FINAL
Minnesota 130
Washington 118 FINAL
Boston 102
Toronto 92 FINAL
New York 95
Golden State 116 FINAL
Denver 112
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Portland 110
Phoenix 104 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Montreal 5 FINAL(OT)
Tampa Bay 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 4
Dallas 3 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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