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?
A 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?
A 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?
A 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?
A 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.
A They think they're the best conference. But they're in the national championship game every year, so you can't complain about that.
Q 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?
A 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.
Q Have you seen Leslie Frazier get angry yet?
A 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.
Q Are there any similarities between playing guitar and playing football?
A 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. • firstname.lastname@example.org
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