Trojans put two in first round

The USC Trojans had a pair of players drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft on Thursday with OT Matt Kalil (Minnesota Vikings, No. 4) and LB Nick Perry (Green Bay Packers, No. 28).

The selection of Kalil was not a surprise, as the Vikings had long been rumored to be interested in the All-American left tackle. Kalil was the consensus choice as the top offensive tackle available in the draft -- with particularly strong pass protection skills -- while the Vikings gave up 49 sacks last year, a number they will certainly hope to reduce for 2011 first-round choice QB Christian Ponder.

“The Vikings called tonight and asked if I was ready for the draft to be over with,” Kalil told ESPN radio. “I said hell yeah. It seemed like forever that I was waiting in the green room but I know it wasn’t that long. There’s no place I’d rather be than with Minnesota and I’m really excited right now.

“There are certain aspects of the game I’ll look to work on, such as bull-rushing. I’ve been working hard on that this offseason. I think they will find I’m very coachable and I’ll work my butt off.”

Kalil becomes the fifth USC player drafted in the first-round by the Vikings in their history as he follows OT Ron Yary (1968), OT Steve Riley (1974), DB Joey Browner (1983) and DE Kenechi Udeze (2004).

USC head coach Lane Kiffin -- who was a guest of Kalil in the draft's green room -- once served as a ball boy for the Vikings when his father, Monte, was an assistant coach for the team.

There are currently two other USC players on the Vikings roster; DE Everson Griffen and OL Butch Lewis.

Kalil becomes the third member of his family to be chosen in the NFL draft. His father, Frank, was selected by the Buffalo Bills in 1982 while his brother, Ryan, was a second-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2007 and is a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

“My brother has helped me a lot to let me know what to expect at this level,” Kalil said. “He told me to be a student of the game. Everyone in the NFL is looking to get an edge so you need to know your opponent inside and out in order to be successful.”

The selection of Perry by the Packers -- while projected in recent weeks on several mock drafts -- was somewhat of a surprise considering both ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay had taken Perry out of their first-round mock drafts on the day before the draft.

There were still other talented defensive options available for the Packers when they picked but they stayed true to the biggest need on the team, finding an effective pass-rusher to line up across from Clay Matthews. Ironically, Perry will be making the move from defensive end to outside linebacker while Matthews once made the move from linebacker to defensive end during his USC career.

“I want to be just like Clay,” Perry told ESPN radio. “I think it could be a great duo. I want to take the edge as a pass rusher and create a problem on the other side from him. I know it’s all about work now and I’m ready to take on that challenge.”

Perry -- who led the Pac-12 in sacks in 2011 with 9.5 -- has the skills to make the position switch as a 6-foot-3, 271 pounder who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds and had a vertical leap of 38.5 inches.

Matthews is the only former USC players on the current Packers roster but Green Bay has selected four Trojans in the first round in their history; OL Ken Ruettgers (1985), OL John Michels (1996), Matthews (2009) and Perry.

Perry will be returning to his Midwest roots as a former prep star who set a state-record with 36 sacks as a senior at Detroit King HS, also winning a state title.

The Trojans now have 77 first-round NFL draft choices in their history and 475 draftees overall. Both totals are the most for any team in college football.