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Ricky Proehl’s son Austin Proehl has big football dreams at UNC

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Courtesy of Rusty Transou, Provi -
New Providence High football coach Justin Hardin, center, hopes the Panthers' offense is more consistent this year with North Carolina commits Bentley Spain, left, and Austin Proehl.

Austin Proehl is no stranger to a challenge.

The former Providence High football star and incoming North Carolinawide receiver understood early in his high school career that earning a roster spot on a college football team wouldn’t be easy.

That message came from his father Ricky, a Carolina Panthers receivers coach who excelled as a player in college and the NFL.

“I have the best coach in the game as a father,” Proehl said. “I believe that 100 percent. He’s taught me everything I know on and off the field. Teaching me how to cut, how to lift, being smart in the weight room, and making sure I’m in shape. The little things is what he taught me. If you work on the little things the big things will take care of themselves.”

Proehl was a “little thing” at the beginning of his recruitment, which he described as frustrating. When North Carolina first approached him during his sophomore year , Proehl was about5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. Productivity wasn’t an issue, but size was something the coaches emphasized right away.

“I was just small,” he said. “(The coaches) said they wanted me to get bigger.”

Proehldid grow, adding 3 inches and 20 pounds, making him the size of a protypical college slot receiver. His numbers also spiked. From his sophomore to senior year, Proehl, who spent half of his junior season playing quarterback, had 123 catches for 2,143 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also returned four punts for touchdowns and three on kickoff returns.

In the offseason, there was no special treatment, especially from his father.

“When we go out there and work, I am not Dad,” Ricky Proehl said. “I am going to get on you and I am going to push you and it is not personal; it’s just teaching him how to play.”

The former Panthers receiver said it is a difficult balance between father and coach, but believes treating his son like he would an NFL receiver will help Austin evolve as a player and person.

“As dads, we all want of our kids to be successful, and sometimes we have a tendency to be too hard on them,” Ricky Proehl said at a Panthers practice this week. “I’ve got to coach him like I coach the Panthers.”

For Austin Proehl, choosing a school was all about fit. The obvious option would have been Wake Forest, where his father was a standout receiver, his mother was a student, his godfather was a kicker and his grandfather is a booster. But North Carolina was the school for him.

“They (UNC) were the first ones who recruited me,” Proehl said. “I could just tell they always believed in me from Day One. I love the coaching staff. They have a swagger and energy about them that I love.”

Proehl will report to campusMonday for summer school and will start practice in the coming weeks.

“My goal over the next four years is a national championship, but for myself I just want to help this team win,” Proehl said. “I want to do my part in the offense, whether that means I back up (sophomore reciever) Ryan Switzer, or help him out by playing on the opposite side of him. I’m going to do whatever I need to do in order for the team to win.”

Shoff: 704-358-5928; Twitter: @curryshoff
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