Souhan: Vikings first-round pick Kalil hitting the right chord

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 7:19 AM

Vikings rookie Matt Kalil is mastering blocking on the field and strumming off of it.

Matt Kalil, the rookie Vikings tackle, likes guitars. I like guitars.

So instead of discussing his outstanding rookie season and love of music in a locker room filled with naked people, we met at my favorite guitar shop, Lavonne Music in Savage, where nudity is less often a problem.

During a conversation in which Zac Brown (the musician) was mentioned more often than Zach Brown (the Tennessee linebacker), Kalil explained why he got fined $7,000, dissed a powerful football conference and lobbied for Adrian Peterson to buy him something bigger than a bread box if Peterson breaks the NFL rushing record.

Q When did you start playing guitar?

I've always wanted to play. I never had time, and in college, I didn't have the money. Pretty much 90 percent of my stipend check went to rent, so I never had the time for an extra hobby. I figured now I'm done with practice around 5, and I watch film for a couple of hours, so I've got four or five hours a day of just sitting around, so I might as well get good at doing something.

Q This is a very important question for a guitar enthusiast: What kind of guitar do you play?

After training camp, I bought a Gibson Les Paul. Rhett Ellison, my teammate here and at USC, recommended it. He's a pretty good artist. I think he plays piano, and also drums and guitar.

Q If you were in a band with Rhett and punter Chris Kluwe, who plays bass, who would be the leader?

A Probably Kluwe. He's pretty good.

Q Do you ask Kluwe's advice on expressing public opinions?

He's the Twitter master. I always ask him to mention me so I'll have more followers. He has so many followers, including me.

Q Are you going to form a band?

A It's just a hobby, but I like to showboat a little.

Q Favorite band?

A Right now I love the Zac Brown Band. In college, I listened to AC/DC before games. Now I'm trying to stretch my range, so I'm all over the place.

Q Best friend on the team?

Right now, because I've known him for a few years, Rhett. Having Rhett here made it an easier transition.

Actually, now I hang out with John Sullivan a lot. He's a great guy. He's kind of the one that took me under his wing and taught me the ways around here about how to be an NFL player.

Q Do you talk about Notre Dame beating USC this year?

A No. Actually, we always joke about it. Obviously, I want Notre Dame to win the national championship, because I hate the SEC. Those schools bug me.

Q Why?

They think they're the best conference. But they're in the national championship game every year, so you can't complain about that.

Even at 308 pounds, you're lean for an NFL left tackle. Have you been able to keep your weight up?

A Yeah, it's gone down a little bit, but that's almost expected. I always lose a little weight during the season. It's been 100 times easier than in college because you eat breakfast in the morning, then go to practice and to class from 12 to 5 p.m., so I'd skip two whole meals and then eat dinner. It's hard to maintain weight on that schedule.

Now we get fed at the facility, and it's a lot easier to keep a schedule. Plus, now I can afford food.

I wanted to bring that up. I know [USC athletic director] Pat Haden is fighting for that, to get a bigger stipend for players at USC. Different colleges have different costs. We had a $1,200 check, and $950 of it went to rent, and that was for a horrible place. L.A. does not have good housing at that price.

Q Have you had what is known in the league as a "Welcome to the NFL" moment?

Yes, I did. Last week I was all high on my boat because I've been playing so well, and [Bears defensive end] Julius Peppers, on a running play -- which is even more embarrassing -- went inside. So I stepped in to recover, and he stepped outside, and I got into a bad position, and he bumped me and I went down on my butt. First time I've ever been put on my butt in my life. I'm just sitting there feeling like I'm naked, where everybody could see me.

Q Toughest guy you've blocked this year?

A Peppers. He's been playing for so long, 12 years now, and he's humongous. It says he's 290, but he's probably 300. He's humongous, strong, athletic, and he's got a number of different pass-rush moves. He's just the complete player.

I was looking forward to that game. My mindset was, 'This guy has played against every great tackle in the game. Who am I to him?' But I look forward to those kinds of challenges. My next big challenge will be looking forward to Clay.

Q Clay Matthews, the Packers star.

A He was hurt the first game we played, but I know he's going to be ready the next game.

Have you seen Leslie Frazier get angry yet?

I was late one time. He took me into his office, kind of a rookie learning moment, and talked to me. He fined me. I think that's this league. They don't get mad; they just fine you. It's not like college coaches, who call you in and give you a slap on the wrist. They just fine you $7,000. That's motivating.

Q What should Peterson buy his offensive linemen if he breaks the NFL rushing record?

A Snowmobiles. I'm not all fancy. I don't need any watches. He can save the watches and buy me a $5,000 snowmobile instead of a Rolex.

Are there any similarities between playing guitar and playing football?

Same as the football field, it's being competitive. I always want to learn something, always want to get better. I'll research it, and look it up. I was even on YouTube, looking at songs. I haven't even taken lessons yet. I think once I get formal training, I'll get better.

Things I get into, I like to be the best at. I think in the next couple of years, once I start playing a lot, I'll be really good. You guys can come by and interview me later, and I'll show off a little with my fingers.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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