There isn’t a whole lot to say about Ryan Kalil that you can’t get just from listening to him talk. He was a steady and zany presence in the Panthers’ locker room for 12 years. Like Julius Peppers before him, Kalil will leaves the Panthers with a legacy that will remain unrivaled for generations.
We can talk all day about his five Pro Bowl selections or his two first team All-Pro selections, but that doesn’t really get to the core of Kalil’s career in the NFL. He played 148 games. His time spanned snapping to Jake Delhomme, a who’s who of ‘that guy’ quarterbacks in 2010, and the first eight years of Cam Newton.
Outside of longevity, it can be hard to quantify the career of an offensive lineman. If they lasted awhile then they were probably good, but there is no stat for ‘sacks not surrendered’ or ‘yards before contact allowed.’ That is regrettable as we say goodbye to a sure-fire Hall of Honor player for the Carolina Panthers. Instead we’ll have to remember him as much by the noise he made off the field as by the noise he made on it.
A quiet, uninspired man wouldn’t have taken out a full page ad in the Charlotte Observer guaranteeing his team and the city a Super Bowl. Neither does he wear a full bear costume while giving an interview on the NFL Network. Kalil is a man who loved his team and wanted little more than to win with them. He wore that love out loud and his teammates responded to that.
For as much as writing these always feels like eulogizing the living, saying good bye to Ryan Kalil as a Panther feels like we are saying goodbye to somebody who has unfinished business. This isn’t like seeing off Julius Peppers, a legend who will probably fade into memory and out of the focus of cameras faster than Bigfoot. Kalil’s a legend in his own right, but a quiet and staid retirement aren’t likely in his future. He’s already out there pitching movies and writing books.
His retirement also isn’t going to look like that of long time teammate Jordan Gross. I bet he will work in or around the landscape of Panthers or NFL media again, but I don’t expect to see him pop up, less three thousand pounds, on the sidelines anytime soon.
I’m guessing his retirement is going to walk a unique path, something distinctly Ryan Kalil. That his plans haven’t been announced, if they have even been fully made, is unsurprising. Still, not knowing where to look for him next feels almost as disconcerting as not knowing who is going to start at center for the Panthers for the next 12 years. We’ll hopefully find out more about both before the 2019 season kicks off.