Forgotten ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ member Ricky Proehl headed to fifth Super Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ricky Proehl was part of the Greatest Show on Turf. True story.

He’s the forgotten member that included Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim, Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, quarterback Kurt Warner and future Hall of Fame tackle Orlando Pace.

Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl

Now the wide receivers coach for the Carolina Panthers, many of his players didn’t realize Proehl was a part of the Rams’ Super Bowl teams.

“Some of them may see it when they show highlights of Super Bowls over the next two weeks,” Proehl told me Thursday at Bank of America Stadium. “When it comes up, I talk about it all the time. I’ve shown cut-ups, film work of how we ran routes because we run the same system. It’s evolved and it’s a different version, but it’s the same concepts and plays we ran. I’ll show them cut-ups of how we did things as part of my coaching and experience.”

Proehl was actually a member of four Super Bowl teams during his 17-year NFL playing career and is now headed to his fifth Super Bowl as the Panthers prepare to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7.

Proehl rarely brings up his playing days or his experience in the Super Bowl. In addition to being on the two Rams’ teams, Proehl also played on Carolina’s last Super Bowl team in 2003 and retired following the 2006 season after going to the Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.

Proehl retired with 66 receptions for 8,878 yards and 54 touchdowns, but said 12-year veteran Jerricho Cotchery might be the only Panthers receiver who remembers him as a player.

“It’s one of those deals where Cotch has probably seen me play, but there are a lot of younger guys,” Proehl said. “I don’t go around vocalizing my playing days, but they find out.

“A lot of them don’t know the history of who played,” added Proehl, who joked joked that today’s players are millennials whose “heads are in video games and cell phones.”

After the Panthers rolled over the Arizona Cardinals in last Sunday’s 49-15 victory in the NFC championship game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera spoke about Proehl’s previous Super Bowl experience and encouraged his players to ask Proehl questions.

But even if the young Panthers players don’t remember Proehl, it’s not something he takes personally. He’s been overlooked for most of his career — even though the Rams don’t go to their first Super Bowl without Proehl’s game-winning touchdown to beat Tampa Bay in the 1999 NFC championship game.

Getty Images

Ricky Proehl’s touchdown reception against Tampa in the 1999 NFC Championship game sent the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV.

When one major sports magazine arrived in St. Louis to do a cover photo shoot, the magazine requested Warner, Bruce, Holt, Hakim and Faulk. They didn’t ask for Proehl. But Proehl’s teammates insisted and Proehl wound up in the picture.

“They said, ‘Where’s Ricky? We’re not doing the shoot without Ricky,’” Proehl said Thursday. “That tells you a little bit about them.”

When Bruce officially retired from the NFL in 2010, he was asked to state the most memorable catch of his career. His response — Proehl’s 30-yard touchdown in the 11-6 win over the Bucs.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Proehl, who was the star of the 1999 NFC championship game with six catches for 100 yards. “For a guy like Isaac, who I have the ultimate respect for — great teammate, great player — for him to say that, at first it was shocking. Then when you look at the guys we had in that locker room… That was the type of family we had in St. Louis and it reminds me a lot of this football team.”

About Ron Clements

Wisconsin native, former Marine, Summa Cum Laude graduate of East Carolina University and a working sports journalist since 1999.