Kalis is the son of former Vikings offensive lineman Todd Kalis, who played for the Vikings under Jerry Burns and Dennis Green from 1988-93. Kyle, now one of the many draft prospects for the Vikings to consider as they look to improve their offensive line, lived in Stillwater, Minn., until 2 years old before he moved to Arizona with his father.
Last week at the Senior Bowl, Kalis recounted what he learned about football from his father while growing up, and revealed another current Vikings connection.
“It’s cool having a dad who has played and done it before just because he’ll give you the kind of advice that you’ve never gotten before,” Kyle told Viking Update last week after a Senior Bowl practice. “You always want to listen, but he always preached, ‘Listen to your coaches first. If you have any other questions that maybe they haven’t done with experience, come to me and that’s where I’ll help.’ It’s been really nice having that kind of figure in my life.”
Kyle has had some strong coaches to rely on, too, like Michigan’s head coach Jim Harbaugh, whom Kalis called a “bad-ass” with other descriptors unsuitable for print. But it’s clear that he carries a love for his time at Michigan.
“Two things. One, the guys. The camaraderie, that’s one thing in football that I love the most. That and the physicality and the hits. Number two, the fact that my class especially, we brought Michigan football back to where it needs to be, to its winning ways,” he said. “That’s one thing I can carry with me.”
The “physicality and the hits” are something you might imagine a current Vikings offensive lineman to espouse. Kyle Kalis sounds an awful lot like Alex Boone and his tough, physical attitude.
There’s a reason for that. Both of them went to St. Edward High School in Cleveland and remain in contact today, so much so that Boone has apparently talked to Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman about Kalis.
“Boonie is one of my close friends. We went St. Eds together. He graduated a year before I was a freshman there. So he called the GM and he was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got to talk to you about my dude Kyle. You guys need to draft him,’” Kalis said. “So I think they’ve been looking for me ever since then.”
The Vikings interviewed him at the East-West Shrine Game, where Kalis practiced and played the week before the Senior Bowl. While the Vikings had several coaches leading the West squad at the Shrine Game, Kalis was on the other team. However, he still talked with the Vikings “at length” in Florida.
Kalis believes he can bring a toughness similar to what Boone brings to the offensive line.
“That’s the name of my game. That’s why he got ahold of them and said we need to get some tough guys on the line and that’s why, if they want me, I’m the man for the job,” Kalis said. “Wherever I go, that’s what I’m bringing.”
That toughness drew Kalis to name the 1970s Oakland Raiders teams as his favorite and Haloti Ngata as the NFL player he’d most like to face. He just enjoys the challenges presented by playing offensive line.
Kalis is most naturally a guard, but he isn’t afraid to take turns at center or tackle, either. He wants to the opportunity to prove he can excel in the NFL and believes that chance will happen sometime in the middle to late rounds of this year’s draft.
But at the Senior Bowl and Shrine Game it was all about proving he can improve on his perceived weaknesses.
“I want to prove to people that I can get out and run. I think a lot of people, because I’m that physical guy and the guy that wants to set the tone – I wear the neck roll and everything so I look like a big, bulky dude, which I am – but I want to prove I can get out and run,” he said. “I can take my steps on outside zone, I can get to the ’backer on the second level. You watch film this week and I’ve done it time and time again. I’m putting my resume out there and I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
From Harbaugh and the assistants at Michigan to the NFL coaching he got at the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Kalis has absorbed a lot of advice over the last several months. Then again, he’s been getting advice on football from his father, Todd, for long time.
“It’s been huge. From an early age, I grew up just knowing that I was going to play offensive line. It was something that I had to embrace – I didn’t have a choice,” Kyle said. “But the first step, played it, I fell in love with it. Dad was a huge part of that. He always preached that the guys that worked the hardest are on the offensive line. It’s all in the genes, I guess.”