In the first half of our recent interview with USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, we talked about his work with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, and the advanced training methods that seem to be taking the NFL by storm. In the conclusion, Kalil opens up about the effect the USC recruiting scandal had on him, what his family means to him this close to the NFL draft, and what he's working on to make the biggest possible splash at the next level. With just a week left before he hears his name, Kalil is working out for the Cleveland Browns -- just one of the many teams interested in a man who may very well be the third pick in this year's NFL draft.
Shutdown Corner: USC obviously had a bit of an advantage in recruiting you, since your brother Ryan went there. But as someone who covers the Seahawks, I'm interested in the Pete Carroll recruiting process. What was that like for you, and were you taking other colleges seriously? Or was USC kind of a fait accompli for you?
Matt Kalil: It was different for me ... I knew at the start that as soon as they offered me, I was going to commit there. The main thing for me was to get to know the coaches. Even though I'd already been there for five years to see my brother, it was a whole new process for me, really getting to know the coaches on a personal level, since I was going to go there. I didn't take any official visits anywhere else; my only visit was to USC. I didn't even want to take one there, since I knew I was going to go there. Coach Carroll knew how committed I was to going to USC, but he still took the time to drive down to Corona and have dinner with my family -- tell us how excited he was for me to be there. The thing about coach Carroll is ... what you see is what you get. He's an enthusiastic guy, he loves the game, and he coaches with a passion that I haven't seen in any other coach. He's a great guy, he does a lot for the community, and he's a great coach.
SC: The sanctions that came down after the USC recruiting scandal -- it's easy for football players to say that they'll just keep their heads down and play through anything, and you hear that a lot, but it must have been difficult to do that on a personal level. How did that change your experience, and how did you adjust?
MK: When the sanctions first came down ... as a player, you just ...the coaches say, "Just tell everyone there's nothing we can do about it, and we'll be fine." That wasn't the case. I was really upset. It sucks not being able to play for a bowl game and do something special there, but after that first year, we took it to heart that next offseason. We were going to do whatever it took to show that no matter what happens, SC is still going to be a great program. No sanctions are going to keep us down, and we really leaned on each other as teammates.
For me, it was a really special season -- even though we didn't have anything to play for, we still played with a lot of pride, and we were going to try and beat any team that lined up across the field from us. It was definitely fun -- I think the more the season went along, the stronger our team got. I can honestly say that if we were in that PAC-12 Championship, nobody would have stopped us. We would have been playing the Rose Bowl. It was a unique experience, and we definitely learned a lot from it. SC has a chance to win a national championship, and the program's back on the rise again. It's pretty cool to see that.
SC: You are known as a great pass-blocker with outstanding technique, but it seems like there's this auto-default people go to when a player does one thing exceptionally well -- if you play with finesse, you can't be nasty in the run game, etc. Have you experienced that sort of default evaluation, and do you think the power-blocking aspect of your game is overlooked?
MK: For me, it's just that I'm so dominant in pass protection, it kinda overshadows my run game. I feel that my run-blocking was pretty effective during the while season, but as an offensive lineman and as a football player, you always want to improve. I have done a lot of things this offseason -- working on leverage and footwork. When it comes time for training camp, I think the coaches will see the improvement in my run blocking. It wasn't a weakness, but it wasn't one of my strengths. But it's definitely something I've been working on, and it shouldn't be a problem at the next level.
SC: I was at the combine and heard your podium session there - -you told some great stories about your dad taking you and your brother to the park when you were kids so that you could work on blocking drills. Obviously, all the bloodline stuff came up. Now that you're this close to the draft, how important has the counsel of your family been to you, as far as making sure you're aware of what awaits you at the next level?
MK: It's coming closer to the draft, but I don't think it's something that you can put together in one week -- "What do I do now?" It's a preparation, and it takes time. I started that process in January, when I started training for the combine. I've learned along the way, and I feel more and more comfortable the closer it gets to the draft. I think I'll be more than prepared -- I've visited with a lot of teams, and I have a lot of information about the offseason process.
SC: When you watch NFL tape, how different are the pro defenses from what you saw in college? What do you see there that you'll be facing for the first time?
MK: Going to the next level -- obviously, it's going to be a lot faster and quicker. From what I've seen, a lot of defenses do a lot more stuff to try and confuse the offense. The way the NFL's built, it's now a passing game. They want to get to the quarterback, and they'll do whatever it takes. They'll run different types of blitzes; they'll line up in funky defenses. They're trying to confuse the offensive linemen, and the offense as a whole. It's something that ... wherever I go, the coaches will prepare us to the best of our abilities, and when that first preseason game comes, I'll know everything inside and out. I'm going to prepare myself in the offseason, and I'm definitely excited. Not scared -- that's not the kind of person I am.
SC: It's very possible that you could be the third player selected in this draft. Would that present any additional pressure?
MK: If I go or don't go at three, that's fine. Whichever team takes me, they're going to get my best. I expect to start in this league for the next 10 years. That's my goal. Playing my position, it's nothing but confidence. I've got to go in there with my head held high. You want to respect your opponent, but fear no one. That's kind of my motto.