Carolina Panthers

Renaissance Man Ryan Kalil balances football, books and film

An impromptu sales pitch

When Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is speaking of linebacker Shaq Thompson, an impromptu sales pitch happens with center Ryan Kalil appearing with a copy of his and former teammates Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner's book, "The Rookie Handbook
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When Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is speaking of linebacker Shaq Thompson, an impromptu sales pitch happens with center Ryan Kalil appearing with a copy of his and former teammates Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner's book, "The Rookie Handbook

Most NFL players wait until after they retire to pick up their post-football career.

Ryan Kalil has three years left on his contract and he’s already in the midst of his life after football.

Kalil is one of the Carolina Panthers’ renaissance men whose life isn’t defined by football. At 31, Kalil has been one of the most successful centers in the league for the better part of the past decade.

He has earned five Pro Bowls nods and another three All-Pros. In June, the Panthers signed Kalil to a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Carolina through the 2018 season.

But while Kalil is gearing up to anchor Carolina’s offensive line for his 10th season, he’s also the executive producer of one movie in the works, a producer on another and an author on a soon-to-be published book.

“I try to be somewhat cultured,” Kalil said Sunday at Wofford College during Panthers’ training camp. “A lot of us have different hobbies. We play football for a living, but we try not to let it define who we are. Everybody has their passion they want to pursue in the offseason. I think Cam (Newton) said it best: ‘Just as long as you don’t forget your day job.’ 

Kalil co-authored a book, “The Rookie Handbook,” with former Panthers teammates Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner. On pre-sale now and for release Sept. 6, the book explores life for rookies in the NFL and offers advice on how to survive in your first year in the league.

Kalil joked there are a lot of pictures in the book because it’s made for jocks. It goes over “how not to be an idiot kind of areas,” he said.

His favorite anecdote from the book is explaining offseason drug tests the NFL mandates.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how awkward that whole scenario is with some random stranger coming to your house,” Kalil said, “and you having to explain to your children, if you have children, why you have to go in the bathroom with a strange man.”

Film has been a passion of Kalil’s for years, and he’s involved in the makings of two movies right now. According to Deadline.com, Kalil is the executive producer for the Sony Pictures movie “Son of Shaolin,” which will be produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s production company.

And last week it was announced that Kalil and his friend, All-NBA forward Blake Griffin, will produce a reboot sequel to the 1991 film “The Rocketeer.”

Kalil said he and Griffin loved the first film – which was adapted from a comic book and did relatively poorly in theaters despite gaining a cult following later –and heard Disney wanted to take it in a new direction. They assembled some writers and found a new storyline.

While Kalil was mum on the details, he did say they were targeting a black female lead, which is rare in the comic-turned-movie world.

“We initially wanted to have a female character in this new take for a variety of reasons,” Kalil said. “But then a black female character, we thought, was a very interesting character study given the time period in the 1950s and this (black female aviator) Bessie Coleman model that we’re looking at. That made us excited about what that perspective would be like.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said having a guy with the depth of Kalil is great for the younger players on the team to look up to.

“He’s got a tremendous imagination and he’s very artistic,” Rivera said. “Guys like that are special, and it’s great to have a guy like that because he’s a great example for the rest of the players.”

Kalil realizes he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but he’s still playing at a high level at 31 years old.

After signing his extension in June, Kalil told reporters that he was fortunate he’d be able to end his career in Carolina. The comments seemed to signal that he had already made up his mind that there would be no next season after the 2018 season.

“I don’t see myself being a 15-, 16-year vet. This stuff is already hard as it is,” Kalil said. “I think 12-13 (years) … I’m just trying to get through this year. Let’s just leave it at that. We’ll see afterwards.”

Jonathan Jones: 704-358-5323, @jjones9

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