NFL Draft Q&A: USC C Ryan Kalil

Quarterbacks get the glory, but NFL teams realize it takes a strong center to make the adjustments at the line and coordinate the offensive line as a cohesive group. Ryan Kalil is at the head of the center class and met with a few teams this month. Find out what teams have shown interest, how his father has helped him, his singing career, and much more...

Kalil met with the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and New Orleans Saints for private visits.

How has your dad been able to help you given that he has been through the process and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 1982?

Ryan Kalil: The one thing I have always loved about my dad is he has never pushed football on me. He comes from a very prideful family and believes if you are going to do something you are going to do it all the way, do it his way, and do it the right way. When I came up and said, ‘Look, I know you played and I want help – I want to be good at football.' He came to me with an approach of ‘we are going to do it the way I know how to do it. We are going to go at it the way I wished we would have done it a little better.'

He pushed me through a lot of things. One of the things that was tough to get past is the approach and work you have to put in to be really good. There are all different phases of the good and you can't be good at just one. There is the strength, the attitude, the discipline, the studying – there is so many things you have to understand about the game and work at in order to be successful.

Early on we kind of butted heads and what I was getting at was there was a lot of things he told me that this was going to be like this or that and I was thinking, ‘You played back in the 70's and early 80's – it has changed a long way.' It is kind of funny to understand that it hasn't changed a whole lot. Guys are a little bit faster, stronger and bigger than back then but it is still the same game, it is still the same attitude, there are still the same type of things that go on in the locker room and on the field. The whole game has been the same for a long time. That has been beneficial for me. He has told me things that are going to happen and it helps me further that trust in him that he knows what he is talking about and is going to help me get to the next level.

Early on in my career we kind of butted heads but the more I trusted him and the more I worked at it the more I realized that it was something very beneficial to my career. Even all the little intangibles. His (physical) strength was one of his biggest strengths in the game. He has always been a strong guy. He told me, ‘It doesn't matter how big you are. It matter how fast, strong, and the kind of attitude you have, along with the technique. It doesn't always have to be the biggest guy out there.' You can overpower guys with strength and I have always had a big education in the weight room because of my father. Next to that is technique. He is a great position coach. He is a guy who took me on Sunday's and helped me out and giving me that edge to be better than everyone else.

One of the most important aspects of being a center in the league is knowing the responsibilities of everyone on the line – how will the NFL challenge you in understanding all of that and can you be a leader from the start – as a rookie?

Ryan Kalil: The offensive line is definitely a different position. They say five guys playing as one and there is definitely a camaraderie you have to have and the center spot is the quarterback of all five. He has to understand what is going on. You are right in the middle of everything. You can see the balance of the field. Things are easier to pick up and see at that spot. You have to have a strong trust. They have to be able to trust your calls. It is kind of hard for you to come in right away and have everyone look at you as the leader. It is something you really have to earn. Respect – in the way you play and you prove yourself by doing the right thing and making the right calls – being a good football player and seeing that in the eyes of your guys that trust gains over the years.

When I first came aboard as SC – you really have to earn the trust. And that goes for all the players, not just the center position. You have to trust your guys because if you have four guys on the same page and one guy who is not it does not really matter in the big scheme of things.

Word is you like to sing – Frank Sinatra? At least you can win the rookie challenge.

Ryan Kalil: Right – the singing thing is going to kill me. It is going to be in my bio. The SC PR people ruined it for me. At SC we had our own rookie thing – the new guys every night have to sing a different song. When I was a freshman there were four or five of us so it was great entertainment for all these older guys. Fate has it that I go last and I am not going to be very bragadocious but I can carry a tune. I never meant to be this outgoing singer for the football team – but the linemen loved it and had me do it in the team meeting room in front of everybody. Now, anywhere we go and they need a singer I always get my name chanted to make a fool of myself. I am kind of an old soul and the music I like is big band stuff – Sinatra and Dean Martin, the great classic guys. The teams like me to sing more R&B. I have to sing of the new stuff. I don't think I am very good at it but the guys get a kick out of it.

And your sister is a singer who has been signed?

Ryan Kalil: She is the singer. I don't even compare next to her. She is somebody who is going to be big time real soon. She can sing anything. She likes the rocky blues – it will be fun to watch her.

You were honored with the Morris trophy – talk about winning that since the defense in the Pac-10 votes on it.

Ryan Kalil: That is one of the most honorable rewards that I have had in my whole collegiate career just because it is voted on by the guys you play against. I think that players and coaches have a different point of view than a lot of outsiders do. To be voted on by the players I played against and having them tell me I am the baddest dude they have played against – that is awesome.

How was the Senior Bowl experience?

Ryan Kalil: It was a lot of fun for me. It was a new experience. You kind of do the same routine for four years so it was nice to change it up and do something different.

I love challenges. I love trying to prove myself and showcase my talent. You bang heads with the same guys for four years and it is nice to switch it up. And when you do well it is kind of a tribute to those guys as well – there is nobody better than you that I compete with. I attribute that to success to Cedric Ellis and Mike Patterson and those guys who have helped me get better.

Is there a specific area of your game you feel you have to work on heading into an NFL camp?

Ryan Kalil: I think all of it. All of it is very important. I don't think there is one aspect of my game that needs to be better than others. I am pretty consistent in a lot of the things I do. Just continue to not be satisfied with the way I play and the way I am as an athlete.

Stronger, faster, smarter – constantly looking for help from coaches and guys that have played before. Looking for little things that can help me out that you don't see on your own is something I am always striving to do.

Now it is getting better and getting ready to get into a camp to compete.

What is a typical thing that an offensive lineman must do to be successful?

Ryan Kalil: You are working on your first step, your hands, staying low – all the things you hear since Pop Warner.

Are you eager to go against the likes of Jamal Williams, Richard Seymour, Kevin Williams, Kris Jenkins and the like in the NFL and testing your mettle?

Ryan Kalil: For sure. I always am. My nature is those challenges and trying to prove myself. I am going in to learn as well. I am going to have my chest up high and my head up high but at the same time I am looking to learn from these guys. It is going to be exciting. I can't wait for the next phase of my life.

Your favorite team is the Chargers – do you abandon that loyalty right now?

Ryan Kalil: I think one of the reasons I have been a Chargers fan for so long is they are the hometown team and you have to stick close to home.

Going into this process, I don't have any favorites. I want whoever wants me. Whoever thinks I can come in and help them win a Super Bowl is who I want.

What does a team get when they select Ryan Kalil.

Ryan Kalil: They are getting a guy who works hard. They get a guy is a real dependable football player. They get a guy who is tough. They get a guy who is always going to strive to win and put the team first in all things. They are going to get a fun guy who loves the game.

Having worked closely with Lane Kiffin – what are the Raiders getting out of the new head coach.

Ryan Kalil: A young guy who has a lot of energy. In the pro game, it is a lot of dedication to the game, preparation and he is a guy that has nothing but energy and time. He is a guy that wants to prove himself and is going to work hard. He is already talented in the offensive scheme and learned under a great coach in Pete Carroll. He has all the tools and things he learned – I think he is going to be a great asset to that team.


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