Tom Sorensen

Carolina Panthers will miss precise, insightful receivers coach Ricky Proehl

Carolina Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl gained a lot of knowledge in 17 years as an NFL receiver – and has the ability to share it.
Carolina Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl gained a lot of knowledge in 17 years as an NFL receiver – and has the ability to share it. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Another of Carolina’s most respected coaches is leaving. Ricky Proehl, who coaches the Panthers’ wide receivers, wants the time to watch his sons Austin (North Carolina) and Blake (East Carolina) play.

That’s admirable yet, for Panther fans, sad. Proehl, 48, has the talent, drive and charisma to someday be a coordinator and, after that, a head coach. If he’s interested, I hope he gets a chance.

Watch him on the practice field with Kelvin Benjamin or Ted Ginn Jr., with Devin Funchess or, in the old days, Steve Smith. The players listen to his directives, and like to be around the man.

Why wouldn’t they? Proehl, who played at Wake Forest, was an NFL receiver for 17 seasons. How does a compact receiver such as Proehl last 17 seasons? When the ball comes to him he catches it.

But how does he free himself to be in position to catch it? Proehl came to Carolina in 2003, and played three seasons. I’d sometimes train binoculars on him in a game. You hear commentators talk about running a lazy route.

Proehl didn’t. His routes were so crisp it was as if he ran along a straight edge only he could see. The turns he made were so precise you could have cut your hand on them. You ever drive a car that goes exactly where you direct it? That’s how Proehl ran routes.

He’s able to impart what he knows. You know the tale of Ginn. There was nothing special about him in San Francisco before he came to the Panthers, and there was nothing special about him in Arizona the season he left.

Yet as a Panther, Ginn thrived. Proehl refused to take credit. He said he was perplexed and even upset that other teams didn’t utilize him. Proehl never saw Ginn as a fast man who played receiver. He saw him as a receiver who was fast.

Ginn told me that he loved going to the wide receiver’s room. He said he didn’t see Proehl as a coach. He saw him as an older brother.

Proehl now becomes a father who will skip the meetings so he can watch his sons play.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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