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USC football: Lane Kiffin backs Matt Kalil's decision to turn pro

December 16, 2011 |  1:52 pm

USC tackle Matt Kalil, who told The Times on Thursday that he would forgo a final season and enter the NFL draft, has the support of Trojans Coach Lane Kiffin.

"All of us at USC wish Matt Kalil the best as he takes this next step in his career," Kiffin said in a statement. "Matt was thorough in his research and made a decision that is the right one for him.  We fully support that decision and we told him so. He is ready for the NFL. He will be a very high draft pick and will have a long, successful career."

Kalil also released a statement through USC on Friday.

"The decision to leave USC after my junior year was not an easy one to make," he said. "I love this university. That's why it took a while to decide. I wanted to look at both sides of the decision and talk to a number of people. Ultimately, I sat down with my family, including my father and brother who both know the pro football experience, and I made the decision that is best for me.

"I realize that if I came back to USC next season, I could be part of some special things here and potentially win a national championship. That was very tempting.

"But in my research, I came to the conclusion that I can be the No. 1 tackle drafted and you can't go any higher than that. Now is the right time to go. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I have to take it.

"Now, I will find an agent who is best for me and I will work out until the draft.

"I had great support from USC during this decision-making process. Pat Haden, our athletic director, was one of my biggest supporters. We will work together so that I come back in the off-season to finish my degree.

"I want to thank coach Lane Kiffin, who gave me great input in this process and told me he would support whatever decision I made. He trusted me at left tackle and that allowed me to be in the incredible situation I am in today.

"I also want to thank the great group of assistant coaches we have at USC, particularly offensive line coach James Cregg.  He turned what some said would be our team's weakness this year into a strength, to the point where we led the nation in fewest sacks allowed. He constantly pushed me and made me strive for perfection.

"I was fortunate to play with a great group of teammates. We had a special bond, which I'll never forget.  I am especially proud that we helped get USC back among the top teams in the nation. The future here is very bright.

"I also want to thank the entire USC family. There are none better than Trojan fans. So many told me they would support whatever decision I made. I really appreciate that."


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Photo: Lane Kiffin. Credit: Justin Edmonds / Getty Images.