Ryan Kalil on brother Matt: 'My problem to make sure he doesn’t light himself on fire'

March, 20, 2017
Mar 20
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Ryan Kalil & Matt KalilBruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsYounger brother Matt Kalil, right, is in for some renewed sibling rivalry after jumping from Minnesota to Carolina, where Ryan Kalil, left, has been to five Pro Bowls in 10 NFL seasons.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Perhaps the best example of how Ryan and Matt Kalil, two-thirds of the restructured offensive line of the Carolina Panthers, are different can be summed up in one story.

Ryan, Carolina’s Pro Bowl center, shared it when the Panthers made his younger brother their left tackle on the first day of free agency.

It was a tale of fire and brimstone -- sort of.

It took place in Southern California, where the Kalil brothers grew up. Ryan, 31, was a rising star at Servite High School in Anaheim and Matt, 27, was a maverick kid that one day would follow in his footsteps.

As Ryan told it, Matt and his buddies were writing their names in the middle of the street with the fuel from their gas-powered remote control cars. They then set it on fire to leave marks on the street.

"Unbeknownst to him, it was leaking all down his arm and right down his shirt and down his back," Ryan recalled. “One of the flames got too close and he got lit on fire and had to do a full on sprint to the back yard. Luckily, we had a pool and he dove right in. Very minimal burns. That’s one of unfortunately too many stories."

Ryan (6-2, 295) admittedly is more "calculated" and reserved, while Matt (6-7, 317) is more of a "wild man."

“And when I say wild man, I don’t mean he’s like Gronk or anything like that," said Ryan, referring to New England tight end Rob Gronkowski. "He’s more get-after-it and see what happens."

The Kalils are anxious to see what happens when they play on the same team for the first time ever. Both are coming off injuries that prematurely ended their 2016 season -- Ryan a rotator cuff and Matt a hip injury.

Both had surgery and spent the early part of the offseason rehabbing together in California. Both are 100 percent healed and believe some of their best football is ahead of them.

“I’m tremendously excited with the opportunity to play with him," said Ryan, a five-time Pro Bowl selection since being selected in the second round of the 2007 draft. "I know what kind of person he is, and therefore I know what kind of teammate he’s going to be.

“Matt I’ve always known to be someone who is very loyal, has a great work ethic and, aside from all of his athletic abilities, I can’t think of another guy I would want as my teammate than that big Mama Jama because he’s got the heart to go with it."

Ryan insisted he didn’t try to influence Matt into leaving the Minnesota Vikings to join him at Carolina, where he jokingly has offered up his basement as a temporary home.

Matt, the fourth overall pick of the 2012 draft, calls it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play with his “idol” after just missing that opportunity by a year in high school and the University of Southern California.

Then he jokingly said it could be a good or bad thing that they’re playing together.

“He might try to pull some pranks on me and play big brother," Matt said. "We'll see. It's going to be interesting, though."

One thing is certain, Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman didn’t sign Kalil to protect quarterback Cam Newton's blindside simply because uniting the brothers made for a good story.

“You can’t ignore the amount of positive tape on him," Ryan said. "Mr. Gettleman, he’s a former scout. I know he spent a lot of time watching the tape on Matt. He was more excited about the good than any of the inconsistencies he’s had."

Gettleman had to sign a left tackle with the future of Michael Oher, who remains in the concussion protocol after missing the final 13 games last season, uncertain. If Oher returns, he’ll compete with Daryl Williams for the starting job on the right side.

Regardless, a tackle was needed in free agency because this is a weak year at that position in the draft. Gettleman obviously saw Matt a strong option, giving him a $55.5 million deal with $25 guaranteed. It is the richest deal the Panthers ever have given in free agency to a player that hadn’t been on their roster.

This also made for a good story. You can imagine the poking the two will do at each in training camp, maybe even through the media as Ryan did with the fire story.

"My dad will try to act like he didn’t try to influence Matt to come to Carolina," Ryan said of his father, Frank, who insisted he played no part in the decision. "But I think somewhere he was sort of behind the scenes pushing Matt that way. That’s just one less thing he has to worry about. Now it’s sort of my problem to make sure he doesn’t light himself on fire anymore."

David Newton | email

ESPN Staff Writer

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