CHARLOTTE – With all the talk about joining forces with older brother Ryan Kalil and widely-respected offensive line coach John Matsko, perhaps someone was overlooked in the discussion about left tackle Matt Kalil revitalizing his career in Carolina: the man he's playing next to, left guard Andrew Norwell.
"These defensive guys we're playing against, as soon as they see you lack confidence, it's like sharks in the water," Kalil said. "They're looking for that. For me, having Norwell in there – a real stout guard – it's helped my confidence a lot. I know he's always going to be there for me."
Norwell has become an intimidating figure since coming to Carolina as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He's one of the biggest men on the roster at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, but that's not unusually large in today's NFL. It's the attitude he plays with; the relentless nastiness. That's what's made Norwell so revered in the locker room, and that's what's pushing the tranquil Kalil to raise his level.
"Norwell is an all-time guy. You'll never see him change his demeanor ever," Kalil explained. "Every group needs a guy like that. He's a special player. He brings that attitude and intensity every time. Playing next to a guy like that, it kind of brings up your own game. You want to match that. His type of attitude is contagious.
"Like Matsko says, he's the best conditioned athlete on that field. He's running guys down 20 yards every play. It's hard to match that, but having a guy do that makes everyone better. He's probably the heart of our offensive line and I try to follow his lead."
Norwell now suddenly finds himself in the middle of a Kalil sandwich, with the new guy, Matt, to his left and the veteran leader, Ryan, to his right.
"We've brought Matt in, shown him and led him, and he's bought in," Norwell said. "Couldn't be more excited to work with him this year.
"He's a great dude. He comes to work every day ready to compete. You can definitely tell he's Ryan's brother. He's got the same type of mannerisms as him. He's got a great beard like him. Sometimes I look over and I'm like, 'Is that Ryan?'"
Matt, the fourth overall pick by the Vikings in 2012, is hoping to enjoy the same type of individual success that Ryan has experienced as a five-time Pro Bowler; the type of individual success that was forecasted for him when he entered the league.
After struggling with inconsistency and a hip injury that required season-ending surgery, he's been working to recapture his confidence. He knows he can trust Norwell. Now it's all about trusting himself.
"It started off in OTAs just getting my technique back and being back on the field after being on IR last year," Kalil said. "My confidence – from OTAs to now – has grown tremendously. It keeps getting better and better."
View photos from Carolina's third week of preseason practice.