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Proehl part of the family business

HOUSTON – When Austin Proehl thinks about his father’s football career, one thing stands out. It isn’t a touchdown. It isn’t a Super Bowl win. It isn’t anything that took place on the field.

When the receiver thinks about Ricky Proehl’s football career, the younger Proehl remembers the smile his father had on his face when he left the house for practice, and the smile that was still there when he got home.

It was seeing that smile every day, the passion Ricky brought to each opportunity to play football, that pushed Austin toward his own football future.

“It’s something you love to do, that you want to do,” Austin said after the Dragons’ fourth day of training camp. “As I got older, as I started to be around the locker room with the players at an early age in St. Louis, 4 years old, 5 years old, and it was something I decided I really want to pursue.

“It became my dream.”

For Austin, his childhood revolved around football. And he loved it.  

“Mostly all football, 24-7,” he said. “A lot of credit to my mom (Kelly) for moving around with us, always being there, making sure she was always there for our needs, my older sister, Alex, and my younger brother, Blake.

“Dad was at work all the time. He worked his ass off to make a living for us. We all loved it. We loved watching him when he was a coach and a player.”

Looking back on his father’s playing days – Proehl finished his NFL career with almost 9,000 receiving yards and 54 touchdowns over 17 seasons – Austin was always motivated by the way his father found a way to make the most out of every opportunity.

“He always found a way to succeed and put himself in the best situation,” Austin said. “Just as I got older, I wanted to be like him, obviously. I think me and my little brother, Blake, both feel the same way. You see him doing what he loved to do on a daily basis and be able to support our family.”

Football has become the family business for the Proehls. Since graduating from North Carolina and being selected in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft by Buffalo, Austin has spent time with the Bills, Titans and Rams.

Blake is a 6-foot-2 receiver at ECU.

“He’s a beast,” Austin said.

Like their father, Austin and Blake work to maximize each chance to play.

Austin racked up more 1,200 receiving yards during his career at North Carolina and is expected to be a big part of the Dragons’ passing game in 2020.  

But, before he was drafted by the Dragons, the receiver had the opportunity to be with the Rams during their Super Bowl year last season. For Austin, being a part of that organization that season was particularly special since Ricky played in two Super Bowls during his time with the Rams.

In fact, there is a photo of Ricky carrying a young Austin on his shoulders after a Super Bowl win in 1999 with Austin wearing a Rams jersey and a backward snapback hat.

Because of the connection, Austin switched his number with the Rams to 87.

“When I was in L.A. with the Rams for a year and a half, two years, I actually switched to his number,” Austin said. “It was cool playing in the Super Bowl with them this past year. He played in two with the Rams and it was really cool just to be able to experience that, wear his number."

“We made the decision together. I wanted to include him on me wearing his number, his jersey. There are a lot of stats in that number, a lot of pride, a lot of success. I owed it to him to be able to wear that. That was his.”

Out of the three football players in the Proehl family, Austin is the shortest at 5-foot-10, but he’s never let that slow him down.

“I’m the shortest of the three dudes, but it is what it is,” Austin said. “This is the body frame that God gave me and I’m going to use it to the best of my abilities.”

Now with the Seattle Dragons, Austin continues to live his dream, working to play professional football at the highest possible level.

“We have a dream,” Austin said. “We have aspirations for ourselves and I’m going to pursue it with all I’ve got. I want to play ball. I know God’s got a plan for me, and I know his plan for me is to be here right now.

“That’s my job. That’s my goal. That’s my dream.”

So now, just like his father, Austin goes to work with a smile and comes home with a smile, because his dream lives on.