The Get with Morgan Fogarty: Ryan Kalil
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - He is fascinating to watch on the field and off. At 29 years old, Ryan Kalil is entering his 8th season with the Carolina Panthers never having played pro ball anywhere else, and now, after big roster changes, a team veteran. Kalil says, "The longer you're in it, the less surprised you get, too, about that stuff. Early on for me, it was really hard. Jake Delhomme leaving was a big deal for a lot of us. Julius Peppers and then obviously, recently, Steve Smith. Jordan Gross."
Kalil will go to battle with new guys this year, including Kelvin Benjamin, Kony Ealy and others. He says, "There's a competition that's happening right now that I haven't seen anywhere in a while that's gonna be extremely healthy for the team and the organization."
Off the field, Kalil is a husband and dad to two daughters and a son born just a few months ago. "I try to do things that I would want my daughters, my son and my wife to be proud of. That's it. There's no crazy secret," he says.
Kalil's own father, Frank, played pro ball for the Buffalo Bills. "The cool thing about my dad is he never ever pushed football on me," he says. But the elder Kalil did tell his son he would play a sport. Kalil says, "I was terrible at all of them. I was so bad at baseball, basketball." WCCB News @ Ten anchor Morgan Fogarty asked him why. "I don't know, I just think I was very uncoordinated and I didn't have a huge interest in sports. I was into lot more nerdy things: comic books and video games and movies. But my dad was not a big fan of me sitting at home all day playing video games and reading comic books, so I had to pick a sport. I picked football, honestly, because I thought my football helmet resembled Boba Fett's helmet from Star Wars. That's the honest truth," Kalil says with a laugh.
Kalil, now one of the highest paid centers in NFL history, got one offer to play college ball from the University of Southern California. He met his wife there. Fogarty asked him, "What is the key to a successful marriage?" Kalil replied, "Honesty. Honesty is a big part of that. Communication. I think those two are extremely important."
Before the 2012 season, Kalil took out that infamous full-page newspaper ad predicting the Panthers were going to the Super Bowl that year. The team went on to a 7 and 9 record. Fogarty asked, "When you were thinking about the idea to publish that ad, did anybody say to you, you shouldn't?" Kalil replied, "No, because I knew somebody would say I shouldn't. I didn't do it in 10 minutes and hit 'enter' and it was done and I regretted it. I thought about it for a while. That came about because, my whole thing is that, this league is very competitive. I think it's the most popular sport because any team has a chance to win because the talent is so evenly dispersed. I've just never been a huge fan of this notion of rebuilding. I just don't. There's too much history of first time coaches and losing teams that turn it around quickly for me to buy in the whole 'well, we'll figure it out later on.' So, yeah, you start seeing that in the papers, and reporters are telling you that, and everybody is trying to define you, and you have a young team and some of them you feel are starting to buy into that. It becomes upsetting, and so my whole thing was about making a big statement. Not to the fans, but to my own team."
Kalil says his worst time with the Carolina Panthers was the 2010 season. The team won two games. John Fox left. There was a lot of uncertainty. "And what about the best time?" asked Fogarty. Kalil says, "Probably this last season. I felt like a change was coming and one of my really good buddies was Jordan Gross, and Travelle Wharton and Geoff Hangartner and none of them said they were gonna retire, but just from the conversations we had and sort of how they were feeling physically, I kinda felt this was gonna be the last season I had with them. And it would have been more fun to progress a little bit further, but early on I caught it and I really cherished every day I spent with the guys, so that was a really special year for me."
Ryan Kalil, a man motivated as much by relationships as records, says he's ready for this year. Kalil won't take out another newspaper ad, but he has this message for fans. He says, "You have a lot of guys who care, and it's important for them to bring a winning franchise to this city and the Carolinas. And that's a really good place to start."
Kalil also talked with WCCB about his plans for life after football, and why he thinks social media can be a bad thing for professional athletes. You can find that footage by clicking here.