Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/13/12
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. Before and after the NFL draft, analysts spend exhaustive hours and countless words evaluating how individual players fit with a specific team. The speculation centers around fulfilling a team's needs or how players adapt to particular schemes. Pairing Matt Kalil with the Minnesota Vikings was a "no-brainer" move, an elite talent filling an obvious need. Minnesota agreed with the correlation, picking the Southern Cal left tackle with the fourth-overall pick. When Kalil signs his rookie NFL contract in the coming months his transition to becoming a Viking will be complete, but the reality goes far beyond traditional football terms. Since the draft, Kalil has been saying all the right things, trying to prove just how his piece fits into the Minnesota puzzle. "Out of all the visits I took, Minnesota was the only place I could really see myself living and spending the next 10 years there while finishing out my football career," Kalil said. "You know, I knew some people that went to Minnesota and a lot of players that played there. They all said there is no other place like it. You know especially the fan base that Minnesota has. It is probably the best in the NFL. As soon as I was picked, I knew I was going to a great place and a great team as well." For a state which is so provincial, Kalil is the type of athlete Minnesotans can embrace according to his college coach, Lane Kiffin. And Kiffin knows a thing or two about the state and the Vikings. Kiffin is a Minnesota native himself, born in Bloomington, and spent much of his adolescent life here while his dad, Monte, was a coach for the Vikings. According to many, Kalil fits the Vikings, fits Minnesota, and fits the Midwest. Kiffin, trying to prove the point, used a surprising analogy. "It's just really a great fit, to come to Minnesota and a family kid," Kiffin said. "He already bought a truck. Ford truck, so I thought it really was a good fit in general ... That's what you're getting. He's not going to buy the sports car. He's just a good old lineman." Kalil is the Southern California native that never became too "Hollywood." He comes from a smaller town just on the outskirts of the major Los Angeles metropolitan area, Corona. These days, Corona is basically a part of the metro area now, but when Kalil was born in 1989, it might have seemed its own little rural suburb. Vikings' running back Toby Gerhart is from nearby Norco. Gerhart also referred to his home as a "small town." Kalil says he's just your prototypical offensive lineman, down to earth and hard-working. "I'm low key," Kalil said. "Even though I'm from L.A. and Hollywood, that doesn't represent my personality at all. I kind of like to hang out with my friends, play a lot of football. That's what I love to do. My dream car is a Ford truck, a brand new Ford F-150. That's the kind of guy I am and I also love to be a good teammate and a good family man." Vikings offensive line coach Geoff Schwartz knows the Kalil family well. He coached Matt's brother, Ryan, with the Carolina Panthers. Even though he didn't know Matt very well until the draft evaluation, he knew the way Minnesota's newest offensive lineman was raised. While it can be hard to cut through the rhetoric, Davidson said it's not just lip-service. Kalil comes as advertised. "That's what he is,' Davidson said. "I don't think this is any sell, soft-sell, you name it, however you want to say it. It's just what he is. You can call him a typical offensive lineman. I call it low maintenance." For Davidson, Kalil is a low-maintenance improvement to his offensive line. Kalil gives Davidson a lot to work with, being fundamentally-sound, athletic and hard working. The 6-foot-6 Kalil said he's put on about 10 pounds of muscle since last season ended and figures he will settle into the 310-pound range, trying to add strength without sacrificing his nimble feet. He also has the pedigree. His father, Frank, was drafted by the Buffalo Bills and played in the USFL. Ryan was an All-American at USC, a second-round NFL draft pick and is a three-time Pro Bowl center for Carolina. The Vikings appreciated what they saw on game film. The intangibles sold them on using their highest pick since 1968 on Kalil. "His passion was what really stuck out to me, his passion for the game," coach Leslie Frazier said. Kalil seemed like the right fit to the Vikings. He believes he belongs in Minnesota, but has the California kid heard about the winters in Minnesota? "Even though I've been in the snow probably once in my whole life, it's definitely going to be a new experience, but the cold doesn't bother me at all," Kalil said. "I've definitely played in some cold games which were probably my favorite and best games I've played in. My room is set to 50 degrees every night. I like sleeping in the cold." Spoken like a true Minnesotan. For now, the words sound great. He said this is the only place he wanted to be. But talk is cheap in the what-have-you-done for me lately NFL. What will endear Kalil most to Vikings' fans is if he can solidify the left tackle position for at least the next decade. "When that pick came in, I was just staring at my phone, praying a Minnesota number would pop up and all of a sudden it started vibrating and ended up being picked there," Kalil said. "I was excited. I think this is probably one of the only places I really wanted to play and could see myself playing, so it is pretty crazy being here." Follow Brian Hall on Twitter.
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