Road trips got a lot easier for Frank Kalil on Thursday.
Instead of having to split his fall weekends between Minnesota and North Carolina, Kalil and his wife Cheryl now can fly direct from Los Angeles to Charlotte to visit four of their five grandchildren and their two football-playing sons.
More than 60 sets of brothers have been teammates in the NFL and its professional league predecessors, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But the Carolina Panthers have never had brothers on the same team – until Thursday.
Former Minnesota Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil agreed to a five-year, $55.5 million deal with the Panthers on the first day of free agency, giving Cam Newton a new blind-side protector and putting the Kalil brothers on the same team – at any level – for the first time.
“It’s very surreal, if you think about it,” Frank Kalil said Thursday afternoon. “They’ve always just kind of missed each other.”
But barring injury, Matt and Panthers center Ryan Kalil will be on the same team and the same starting offensive line for at least the next two years. Ryan’s contract runs through the 2018 season, although having his younger brother around might persuade him to play longer.
“I’m just kinda happy there’s a guard in between them so if anything hits the fan at least there’s a guard there and we won’t have any kind of scrum on the field or anything,” Frank Kalil said.
He was joking, presumably.
Ryan Kalil, who turns 32 this month, is four years older than his brother. So he would age out before Matt could join him, starting with the Corona Chargers, a youth football team in southern California, and continuing through Servite High and Southern Cal.
Matt Kalil arrived at USC as a Parade All-American in 2008, a year after Ryan had been drafted in the second round by Carolina.
Frank Kalil, a center who was drafted by Buffalo in 1982 before playing two seasons in the USFL, said he figured his boys would grow up to be linemen – based on his background and their appetites.
“I think they were more interested in the pizza parties than football,” he said. “I think it was kind of interesting to see what positions they wanted to play. Me being an offensive lineman, I kind of pushed them in that direction.”
While Ryan played his dad’s position, Matt became a tackle and was the No. 4 overall pick by the Vikings in 2012. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and started 66 consecutive games before undergoing season-ending hip surgery last September.
Frank Kalil says the Vikings – who were interested in re-signing him – had medically cleared Matt, who has been working out with his brother near their childhood home.
And while Ryan is fired up to have his brother on board, Frank Kalil says he didn’t try to interfere when Matt began hearing from the Panthers and other teams.
“Ryan wouldn’t do that. You’re talking about somebody’s livelihood,” he said. “In the long run he’s got to make it work. Whatever Ryan wanted or I wanted or whoever, the most important thing was Matt needed to make a decision that was best for him.”
Although they’re now teammates, Frank says his two boys are at different life stages. Ryan and his wife have four children, and he spends a lot of his free time at youth soccer games.
Matt’s been married about a year and is an avid hunter and likes to snowmobile, or at least did when he lived in Minneapolis.
“His idea of fun’s a little different than Ryan,” Frank said. “They’re two different guys. But I can tell you they are both honest people, have great character. They’re both accountable for their actions, so in that respect they’re the same.”
The Kalil brothers faced each other twice in the NFL, including a 2013 game in Minnesota when their sister Danielle sang the national anthem. Theirs is a football family: Danielle is married to former Panthers lineman Rob Petitti, and they’re expecting their first child in June.
All will be gathering in Charlotte on Sundays throughout the fall for impromptu reunions.
“It’s just a great story. You don’t expect that to happen,” Frank said. “It did and the Kalil family is very happy about it.”