Ricky Proehl brings championship appeal to Panthers receiving corps

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When Isaac Bruce announced his retirement in 2010, the former St. Louis Rams receiver was asked to name the most memorable catch of his career.

Getty Images

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

His answer: Ricky Proehl’s 30-yard touchdown reception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 23, 2000.

Proehl’s catch against the Buccaneers put the Rams in the Super Bowl, allowing Bruce to play in his first-ever championship game. The Rams then beat the Tennessee Titans to claim the franchise’s first Super Bowl title.

Proehl played 17 seasons in the NFL with the Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers. He retired in 2006 and was joined the Panthers coaching staff is 2011 as an offensive assistant before being name wide receivers coach in 2013.

Carolina’s receiving corps is led by second-year player Kelvin Benjamin, who caught 73 passes last season for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. The Panthers also have veterans Ted Ginn, Jr., Jerricho Cotchery, Jarrett Boykin and Corey Brown, along with rookie Devin Funchess. Then there is the rest of the group – undrafted rookies Avius Capers, Paul Browning and Damiere Byrd, third-year player Mike Brown and second-year receiver Brenton Bersin.


Ricky Proehl

“It’s a competitive group,” Rivera said on Aug. 3. “That’s one of the things I really like right now – the competition we have. Some of the guys have really stood out.

“Kelvin has really picked up right where he left off. He came into camp in tremendous shape and he’s shown it. He’s done a nice job.”

Proehl was instrumental in scouting Funchess and his input led to the team selecting the former Michigan receiver in the second round of the 2015 draft.

“One of the things Ricky likes to do when he works these guys out is on the move talk to them about what coverages are you seeing, how are you going to adjust your routes while running the route when you recognize the coverage?” Rivera said on May 2. “So, again we’re just not sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, this guy’s a great athlete,’ or something like that. We’re trying to find out what type of mental athlete he is a well.”

Ron Clements

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera

Proehl said the receiving corps is extremely improved last season and the Panthers have “every weapon in our arsenal.”

Rivera also praised Ginn, who played for Carolina in 2013 and is now back following a one-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s like he never left,” Rivera said. “He fits right back into the system.”

Ginn said he happy to be back with the Panthers, who welcomed him back with open arms. While he doesn’t regret “chasing a check” because he is able to provide a comfortable life for his family, Ginn said Carolina’s coaching staff has given his career a new life.

“It’s a perfect fit for me,” Ginn said on Aug. 3. “With the schemes, and how the coaches put things together, it shows up in different ways that we can be great.”

Ron Clements

Ted Ginn, Jr.

Ginn remained in contact with Proehl while he was away, speaking with his former receivers coach almost on a weekly basis last season. “I told him to come back and get me,” Ginn quipped.

“Ricky Proehl has been a big influence,” Ginn added. “It’s a blessing when you have a guy that tells you what to do and then fights for you on tape so you can be able to just go out there and play. Everything out of his mouth rings true.

“You can’t take that away. When you’re in a grind and you’ve got a guy who’s telling you to keep your head up – do this, do that – run it like this and if it don’t work, I’ve got your back, and really has your back, that’s the difference between here and anywhere else.”

Rivera said he hasn’t put a number on how many receivers he will keep – “it may be six or seven.” That depends on how many other things those players can do, like play on special teams.

Ron Clements

Damiere Byrd

Part of that falls on Proehl.

Byrd, a local favorite from South Carolina, said he’s just trying to “be a sponge” during training camp and is doing as much as he can to make the team.

“Coach Proehl is a great coach,” Byrd said. “He was a player for many years and knows how to relate to us. He makes a lot of things easier, as far as being able to demonstrate it for us. He’s already been in our shoes, so he knows exactly what we look at it, what we see and how we go through it.”

He’s got a pair of Super Bowl rings to prove it.

About Ron Clements

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