INDIANAPOLIS -- Bloodlines don't always tell the tale when it comes to NFL success, but teams are inclined to at least investigate the process when a prospect has a family full of football dominance. Sometimes you get Jarrett Payton, and sometimes you get Clay Matthews. It's still a crapshoot to use lineage as a scouting tool, but teams will work with anything to gain an edge.
In this year's draft class, the main man with a family plan is USC left tackle Matt Kalil, whose father played in the NFL, and whose brother, Ryan, plays center for the Carolina Panthers. When asked about what growing up in that kind of football family did for him, Kalil first said that it has given him a cheat sheet to the draft evaluation process.
"It's definitely helped out. My brother has almost kind of laid the path for me," Matt Kalil said. "I started off coming out of Servite [High School] when he went to Servite, going through SC and going through this draft process, I've always had my brother there to help me and telling me everything to expect and having that tool there to help me in any way possible has definitely been a big help."
What did his brother tell him about the scouting combine, which Ryan went through in 2008 before being drafted by the Panthers in the second round? "You definitely have to be strong," he said. Going through all these medicals, all these interviews and everything, it definitely can wear on you mentally. I think that's the point of the whole process, to see how you react to certain things. Definitely be who I am. And I think he was telling me that the coaches appreciate that. Be yourself. The coaches want to know what you're about. There's nothing you can hide from them that they won't find out. Just be yourself and being up front with all these coaches in all the interviews."
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who had both Kalil brothers during his time at USC (not to mention Clay Matthews and Lofa Tatupu, still more sons of football players), also talked about the advantages in coaching those who know the game at a different level through their relative ties.
"It's in the family -- his dad played. His dad was a coach," Carroll said. "As he brought up Ryan, you could just see it happening. [Matt] just had a savvy about him that a lot of guys don't have, because it was in the family for so long. He was a camper for us for a long time, and we watched him grow through that. The fact that he's here and making a big presentation on the bench press and other things, makes it a perfect situation. There's nothing to keep him from playing right away.
"There's a chance for kids who grow up in the families of players and coaches to be exposed earlier than others. It does show up. I particularly like recruiting kids whose fathers played,, or their moms played sports. It's not just in the genes -- it's in the conversations at the dinner table. Wherever that fits in, it can make a difference. Specifically with Matthew's family, it's obvious. Mom's a good athlete too in the Kalil family, too."
Whatever Kalil inherited from his family, it's obvious that confidence is one of those assets. "Being a tackle coming out of USC and being highly regarded as I was and definitely talking to a lot of people, sitting down with my brother, sitting down with my dad, they basically told me that if you're going to be a highly-valued prospect, it's definitely the time to come out. And I'd done all I could at SC. I was an All-American. I won the Morris Trophy. I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish there. And I think it was definitely time for me to move on and take my skills to the next level."
Does he think he's the best tackle prospect in this draft class? Of that, there can be no question.
"I would definitely say I am the best tackle in the draft. Especially at my position, or quarterback position or any big-time position, confidence is definitely a big part of your game. And I think they want to hear that you do think you're the best tackle. And I think I am. And I think I've worked hard going through SC working on everything I can to become a better player. And I'm ready to take my game to the next level."
In Kalil's case, the tape backs him up. In the genes or not, he's earned his sure spot as a top-5 pick prospect.