In the heart of Greensboro, North Carolina, in an 86,000 square foot sports complex that feels more like a community, kids of all ages excitedly flood the hallways. It’s a typical summer morning at Proehlific Park, which means camps are in full swing. But kids pause their games to try and catch Ricky. That’s Ricky Proehl: two-time Super Bowl winner, former NFL wide receiver, and the park’s visionary. To them, he’s also a coach, mentor, and friend.
They pepper him with questions like, “Who was your toughest defender?” Ricky takes time to talk to each of the kids, giving out high fives and hugs, then tells them to head back to practice so he can answer a few questions from our camera crew. Before the last kid turns around, Ricky asks him with a wink, “Are you ready to be on live TV with me?” He effortlessly puts a smile on anyone’s face.
We settle in the weight room to talk among the clanging machines. But what do you start off asking someone who’s been a coach, player, father, and at times more than one of those combined? As much as we wanted to, we didn’t go with, “Can we see your Super Bowl ring?”
So even though we didn’t see it, we did get to catch a pass from him. We also got his insights on nutrition, one of his passion points after experiencing firsthand the impact of plant-based nutrients on athletic development and performance. Plus, we got some life advice we didn’t know we needed to hear.
Perseverance is Everything.
“I had more failure than success,” says Proehl. “But it molded me. It made me who I am as a team player, as a leader.”
It took almost 10 years and 2 teams for Ricky to find his winning team. It happened in 1999 on the St. Louis Rams, where he found a group of players that would become known as the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
“Then there was the championship game, and we are one game away from the Super Bowl,” Proehl narrates, “and I end up having a huge game and make the game-winning touchdown to get us in the Super Bowl.”
Ricky’s game-winning catch, a 30-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown deemed “one of the great moments in St. Louis sports history,” sent the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV (34) and ultimately to victory.
As far as the name’s origin, Ricky tells us it all goes back to when he made that catch and led his team to the Super Bowl.
“I had Austin, he was four years old at the time, my middle child, on my shoulders,” he says, “and it was on the cover of a magazine and it had ‘Proehl-ific’ [on the cover].”
And so launched the Proehl empire: 4-year-old Austin grew up to play football at North Carolina, then, in his father’s footsteps, moved on to wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams. It wasn’t a leap—after achieving a 23-year NFL career and legacy, family of five, and small business—that Ricky would choose the same name for his park.
“You look at the definition of prolific,” Ricky says. “It’s to be fruitful. It’s to enrich the lives of young people. It’s to be productive every day.”
What started as a vision of a platform for young people to succeed evolved into a community; a safe space where kids learn about communication and teamwork. The park offers competitive training programs, after-school and summer classes, and performance-driven programs that connect young athletes to professional and local athletes. Proehl is cultivating a culture of mentorship and encouraging integrity on and off the field.
What Ricky Tells His Athletes:
Ricky has seen the benefit of teaching kids good nutrition habits from an early age “so when they grow and they become young adults, they’re eating properly.”
And especially for athletes, Ricky preaches the importance of mindfulness: “I think they gotta commit themselves to cleaning the insides of their body and keeping it clean, because they’re going to perform at a higher level and recover at a high level...To be a great athlete for a long period of time, you have to do those things.”
Whether or not you’re lucky enough to train at Proehlific Park, Ricky says, “You gotta surround yourself with people that have a positive frame of mind. A positive attitude—that’s what’s going to help you obtain your goals.”
And even more important than diet and environment is remembering to look within.
“Believe in what we do. Trust in what we do, and go out there and do it. And I promise you at the end, we’ll be ahead.”
Those words lingered long after we wrapped up with Ricky and left Proehlific Park. Trust in what you do—trust the process and the people. Imagine the impact of those words on his teammates, his players, and his own family. Of course, for Ricky Proehl, those are all one and the same.