Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 4/27/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Once Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman was finished dealing at the top of Thursday's first round of the NFL draft, he made a phone call to USC left tackle Matt Kalil and ended the long-awaited decision to pick Kalil over cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Justin Blackmon. Kalil's phone rang with a Minnesota number and he knew he would soon be a member of the Vikings. "It was Spielman," Kalil said of the phone call he received as the fourth-overall pick. "And he said, Are you ready to get this over with?' I said, Hell yeah.' And I'm ready to get this started. No doubt it was very exciting and I talked to the whole offensive coaching staff and they were all excited. I am ready to go over there and do a great job for them." One phone call ended all the speculation about Minnesota's interests. Spielman did his best to hide his intentions up until the Vikings were on the clock Thursday. Even as recently as Tuesday, Spielman said the team was still trying to decide between Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon. He made his intentions of trading back well-known, even deking the Cleveland Browns to give up fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks in order to swap the third and fourth spots. In the end, Spielman got the guy he wanted all along. And it wasn't a last-minute decision to go with the consensus top offensive lineman in the draft in Kalil. "No, it was earlier," Spielman said. Was Kalil the top player on Minnesota's board? "I'll say Matt Kalil was very high on our board," Spielman said, refusing to tip his hand even after picking the USC junior. But indications are the Vikings zeroed in on Kalil long before the misinformation and draft speculation heated up in the weeks before Thursday's first round. Coach Leslie Frazier said the interest really peaked at the scouting combine in March. Kalil's performance at the USC pro day confirmed what Minnesota's coaches had seen in Indianapolis and Kalil was also brought in for the Vikings' top 30 meetings earlier in April. "Once we got to the combine, we had a chance to be around him and watch him move around a little a bit," Frazier said. "And then when (offensive line coach) Jeff Davidson went out and visited him at his pro day, spent some time with him, he came back really sold, after watching tape, and then being with him in person that that was the guy. So we knew from that point on, based on information from our scouts, from what our coaches had seen, that he was the guy." On Friday, as Kalil was presented at the Vikings' headquarters and holding up a purple No. 67 jersey, it seemed as though there wasn't any internal conflict about who was the best fit for Minnesota with their first pick. Davidson, who worked with Kalil's brother, Ryan, in Carolina, was excited to be working with another member of the Kalil family. Davidson didn't know Matt Kalil personally before the draft evaluation process started, but knew the type of upbringing he had having known his parents for several years. Davidson then saw the skills on tape and during the combine and pro day workouts. As it turned out, everyone else saw it, too. Davidson didn't have to do any arguing to get Kalil in purple. "It was pretty easy," Davidson said. "There wasn't a lot of fighting. I think the whole fight thing with Matt was, if you really needed to, you take one of the tapes in there and you set it on somebody's desk and say, Hey, can you take a look at this and see if anybody sticks out to you.' "I know I'm joking but it's pretty obvious that the guy can play football." Kalil, 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds, changes the dynamic of the entire offensive line for the Vikings. Davidson said he has already talked to last year's left tackle, Charlie Johnson, about moving to left guard. As it turns out, it was a talk that started early last season. The no-nonsense Davidson said then that Johnson might be best served to play guard and didn't know how the offseason would change the look of the offensive line. "Our postseason interviews that we had when I talked to Charlie, I said, You may be our left tackle. You may be our left guard. I don't know yet. We're going to be better at two positions if we get a left tackle in here,'" Davidson said. "And I just saw him today and explained to him, You two guys are going to be best friends.' And I introduced Charlie to his family, Matt's family, as well. They all know who he is. I said, There isn't going to be any bad blood.' And Charlie said, I just want to win games.' He does not care where he plays this game. He just wants to help us win. That's the type of guy he is. That's why I fall in love with the guys from Day 1." The line is in transition. Longtime guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera were released. Kalil is penciled in at left tackle with Johnson sliding to guard. Center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt are holdovers. The right guard is a competition, likely between Brandon Fusco, who Spielman and the coaches speak highly of, or newly-signed Geoff Schwartz. "I've got a vision of them _ I'm not willing to share all of that at this point _ but I do know the direction that I think we're going to head," Davidson said. "We collectively, the Vikings organization, have talked a lot of this out, so this is not like it's news to anybody that we might get Matt Kalil. Kind of had an idea that was the direction we wanted to go." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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