EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- If Matt Kalil was going to reach the NFL, there would be little doubt about how he would do it. His father Frank -- a center who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and played in the USFL -- never pushed his boys to play football, but let them know if they asked for his help, they were going to play offensive line, and they were going to learn to do it his way.
"It’s something we always wanted to do,” Matt Kalil said. “He just said if we ever wanted 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. Football has always been a sport we loved to play."
His father influenced Matt Kalil growing up, but it was his older brother Ryan who set the example -- through high school, to USC and onto the NFL. Ryan Kalil is a Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers. Matt reached the Pro Bowl in his rookie season with the Vikings last year. And for the first time, the two brothers will take the field on opposing teams this Sunday.
The Panthers come to Mall of America Field on Sunday afternoon, pitting Matt and Ryan Kalil against each other in a game that should be a showcase for the family. Their sister Danielle, an aspiring country artist -- will sing the national anthem, and their parents will be in the stands. They'll be wearing purple and gold; Matt Kalil made sure of that.
"This is my home game," he said.
Even though both brothers' teams are in dire need of a win on Sunday, the Kalils are making sure they enjoy the moment. They talk frequently to compare blocking notes, and when he's asked, Frank Kalil is still a candid source of advice.
"He’s one of the only guys that’s not going to be a ‘yes guy,'" Matt Kalil said. "He’s going to tell me how it is and tell me how I played. Maybe the first couple games I played bad and he’ll call me up: ‘What the hell were you doing?’ He’s always there to coach me; he’s never going to B.S. me. If there’s any critic that I’ll really listen to, it’s him and all his advice.”
Ryan Kalil has been a source of advice for his younger brother, too. When Matt Kalil adopted his 6,000-calorie diet this summer, trying to keep his weight up through a healthier regimen of lean meats, vegetables and starches, he modeled the plan after what Ryan was doing. And the drive to be better than his big brother is still there.
"He’s always setting the bar so high, it always keeps me motivated and play with that little chip on my shoulder that I always want to do better than him,” Matt Kalil said. “I’m sure he wants to do better than me. That’s how we are. We’re good competitors and it’s that little sibling rivalry we’ve always had since we were younger.”