SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Ryan Kalil isn’t waiting until he retires from the NFL to get a jumpstart on his next career.
The Panthers’ five-time Pro Bowl center has teamed with Blake Griffin of the NBA’s Clippers to form the Los Angeles-based production company Mortal Media, and will be co-producing a sequel to the 1991 Disney film “The Rocketeer” soon.
If that’s not enough, Kalil also co-authored a book with two former teammates this offseason entitled “The Rookie Handbook: How to Survive the First Season in the NFL” that will hit the shelves next month.
“I try to be somewhat cultured,” joked Kalil, widely known in the Carolina locker room for his wit and sense of humor.
“We play football for a living, but we try not to let it define who we are,” Kalil added. “Everybody has their passion they pursue in the offseason, which I think is fine as long, as Cam (Newton) says, you don’t forget your day job.”
He’s become pretty good at his day job.
Entering his 10th NFL season, the 31-year-old Kalil is one of the game’s best centers, earning All-Pro honors in 2013 and 2015. He was rewarded with a two-year, $16.7 million contract extension this offseason through the 2018 season. Kalil said the contract could be his last.
“I’m not a 15-year NFL guy,” he said.
Perhaps that’s because Kalil has plenty of options waiting for him beyond the gridiron.
He grew up in Anaheim, California, and made Claymation films as a child. He played collegiately at the University of Southern California, where he established contacts within the movie industry.
Before being drafted in 2007, Kalil co-starred in a football training spoof for the NFL Network that featured actor Will Farrell as the Trojans’ strength and conditioning coach.
And when rapper Snoop Dogg greeted Kalil with a hug at the Super Bowl in February, few teammates were surprised.
“He’s a Cali guy,” Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert said. “He knows everyone.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said he went to visit Kalil and his family this offseason in California and said he was impressed with his teammate’s company.
“This isn’t something he’s doing in his basement,” Olsen said. “It’s a major operation and they are dealing with the major players in the Hollywood world. It’s a passion of his and he gets that whole (entertainment) world.”
Kalil said film is something he’s been passionate about for a long time.
He’s done something production-related for the past several offseasons before deciding to open a company with Griffin, a friend who shares similar interests.
“We started going around town and finding projects we were excited about,” Kalil said. “The Rocketeer was one that we’ve been huge fans of, and we knew Disney was trying to figure out what to do with it. So we found some talented writers, and they figured out a really exciting take to the story. We took it to Disney and they liked it.”
Production is still in the early stages and no release date has been set.
When he wasn’t coming up with movie ideas, Kalil sat down this offseason with former Panthers offensive line teammates Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner to write a book.
Together, they’ve seen a variety of rookies come and go over the years and decided to put together an admittedly “sarcastic” handbook on things to do — and not to do — when entering the league.
Kalil joked that while the book may not appeal to a big audience — “Not all the guys like to read on my team or in my profession in general,” Kalil joked — he said it was a fun project.
“Given our sense of humor, there’s a sarcastic tone, but there’s useful information in there,” Kalil said.
He said the book “started out as a joke,” a 10-page rookie handbook specifically for an offensive line meeting room. They later decided to make it a book.
“It was fun to sit down and reminisce with the guys,” Kalil said.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Kalil a “special” player who’s going to be successful in anything he does in life.
“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.”
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