In the face of adversity? What do you do? Do you bend and give in to the obstacle set before you, or do you plow through those obstacles with the mindset of not letting anything hold you back from your dream?
During an interview with 90.9 WBUR, Laila Ali describes being 19 years old and embarking on a journey within the sport of boxing. She details a conversation with her father, the late great Muhammad Ali. “He [Muhammad Ali] said, ‘What’s going to happen if you get knocked down?’ And I [Laila Ali] was like, ‘Well, if I get knocked down, I’m going to get back up, just like you did.’”
Laila Ali’s statement speaks true to the football career of Austin Proehl, and the adversities he has faced along the way while trying to accomplish his dream of becoming a successful wide receiver. Laila’s statements also speak true, as she was questioned by her legendary father on what would happen if she faced adversity, a similar conversation that I would imagine happened between Austin and his legend of father, Ricky Proehl.
Being the child of a parent athlete who has a legacy so great that they are known as the G.O.A.T. must come with a load of pressure. Especially if you are considering the option of playing the same sport your parent excelled at. Austin Proehl’s father, Ricky Proehl, spent 17 years in the NFL, caught 669 passes for 8, 878 yards and scored 54 touchdowns. Ricky Proehl also played in 4 Super Bowls, winning 2. One with the St. Louis Rams, also dubbed as “The Greatest Show on Turf”, and another Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts. What a resume right? If Austin’s dad ever attended a career day, Mr. Ricky Proehl would be THE coolest parent in the history of career days. For Austin to be considering a career as a wide receiver, he had some large shoes to fill. For the rest of his life, he would probably be compared to his father’s career, but you know what, I believe Austin wants to write his own story.
Let’s first start by saying, Austin is a stud. While attending high school in Charlotte, NC, he’s played a laundry list of positions on the football field from quarterback, running back, defensive back, special teams return man, and of course, wide out. He also had skills in baseball where he started at short stop and had a batting average of .330. The man was an athletic beast, but Austin ultimately settled into wide receiver while attending school at Providence High in Charlotte, NC. Because Austin played wide receiver like his father, he was also nicknamed “Little Ricky”, which I personally find super dope, and it sounds like he owned the nickname with pride because Austin proved to be a man among boys on the field just like his pops. During Austin’s senior year in high school, he put up 503 yards passing, 504 yards receiving, and 189 yards rushing. The 5’10, 160-pound senior was rated 3 stars by 24/7 Sports, and had offers from North Carolina, Ohio University, Virginia Tech, and Wake Forest. He ultimately decided on North Carolina. It was funny to see Austin make the decision to attend UNC, because his dad’s Alma mater was Wake Forest. Again, solidifying my beliefs in Austin wanting to write his own narrative.
Austin attended UNC for 4 years putting up some good numbers. He had 91 career receptions for 1265 yards and 5 touchdowns. Unfortunately, during the 4th game of his 2017 senior season, Austin broke his collar bone on a 47-yard flea flicker pass reception against Duke University. At that time, Austin was leading all UNC wide receivers with 15 catches for 223 yards and 2 touchdowns within the first 3 games of the season. It sucks to know he hit that road block so soon in his senior season with such a stellar start. This wasn’t Austin’s first injury in college, but for this one to occur when it did will foreshadow one of the first major obstacles Austin would have to overcome. That same season, Austin would return for the 2nd to last game. It was his Senior Day game against Western Carolina where he had a decent outing with 3 receptions for 52 yards. He also played the last game against UNC rival, North Carolina State.
Despite the set back of Austin’s senior season, he was still determined to pursue a dream in the NFL. During Austin’s Pro Day he worked to emphasize all his intangible as wide receiver skills. He also wanted to show his toughness after bouncing back from what looked like a season ending injury. Austin’s hard work didn’t stop at his Pro Day though. He traveled to California with his dad to train and prepare to work out for NFL teams. Again, nothing was handed to Austin, and the “get back up” mentality showed itself after he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. So, Austin took his talents to Tampa, FL where the NFL hosted their Regional Combine International (RCI) event. “Little Ricky” quickly turned the RCI into the “Austin Proehl Show”. The 5’10 now 180-pound attacked any football in his vicinity with fingertip catches and tracked down deep balls like a shark catching its prey in the water. This outing is what got Austin his next opportunity and one that would allow him to continue his dream.
April 2018, Austin was drafted 256th overall in the 7th round by the Buffalo Bills. It was short lived as he was waived by Buffalo in September of that same year, then was quickly picked up by the Tennessee Titans a couple days after. He would then be waived by the Titans a couple days later. Midway through the 2018 season, he was signed by one of his dad’s old teams, the now, Los Angeles Rams. Check this out, Austin was with the Los Angeles Rams during their Superbowl 53 run in Atlanta, GA against the New England Patriots. Austin even had the opportunity to dawn his dads old number, 87. It would have definitely been the icing on the cake to get a Super Bowl ring out of the match up, but I think Austin’s dream wouldn’t have been fulfilled the way he wanted, if he couldn’t have contributed to earning that coveted ring like his pops did in 2000 with the Rams. August 30th, 2019 would be Austin’s final day with the Los Angeles Rams, as he was waived during final roster cuts.
So here we are, February 2020, with a brand new XFL before us. The Seattle Dragons drafted Austin, October 2019, and after Week 1 of the XFL season, Austin is proving to still be writing his story. He was quoted telling Mason Kelley of XFL News during his 4th day of training camp with the Seattle Dragons “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.”
I wish nothing but the best for Austin “Little Ricky” Proehl, and I hope his goals and dreams really come true.
Thanks for reading guys. God bless.
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