When your dad is a two-time Super Bowl champion, expectations can be high once you hit the gridiron yourself. The football legacy of East Carolina’s wide receiver Blake Proehl is off to a strong start, though.
A versatile prospect who played both inside and outside for the Pirates, Proehl recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his football bloodlines, his abilities as a receiver, and what kind of impact he’ll have at the next level.
JM: The Proehl family opened up a community athletic facility called Proehlific Park in Greensboro. It’s a large center that was built for local athletes to have a place to train. In current times, it’s also turned into a major community staple during COVID-19. Tell me about that.
BP: It’s been such a blessing. My dad [Ricky Proehl] built it as soon as he retired from the NFL. It’s an awesome community of people. It’s a different world there. It’s a place where athletes from all walks of life come together. We have different classes available.
I was fortunate enough to grow up there. It gave me an opportunity to grow up in an athletic environment where I could play any sport I wanted to on any given day. It’s an awesome place.
JM: I love that. How is this pre-draft process going for you so far? What does your training regimen look like?
BP: It’s been going great. I’m having such a good time. I’m with Rep 1 Sports out here in California. I’m with the rest of our draft class out here. It’s been great. I’m competing and getting better. We’ve been preparing. I’m loving my time out here.
JM: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your dad’s 17-year NFL career?
BP: He taught me how to have great discipline and how to pay close attention to the little things. I stay true to myself. My dad played for 17 years. He obviously has some great wisdom to share with others (laughs). He always preaches the importance of staying true to yourself. I focus on the little things while believing in myself.
JM: Do you have a favorite memory from his playing days? You grew up around the game.
BP: I would have to say my favorite memory was when he won the Super Bowl with the Rams. I was a little kid but I remember the Rams being the Greatest Show on Turf. What an electric offense that was. It was so awesome to watch.
JM: When one of the things that jumps out at me about you is that you’re such a good route-runner. It’s easy to see that you’re the son of a former player and coach. You run such crisp routes. Do you have a favorite route to run?
BP: That’s a great question. I don’t think I can pick just one route. I like something that takes me deep. Something like a post route or a post corner. The intermediate routes are a lot of fun as well. A deep out can be a lot of fun. I also enjoy digs, curls, and comebacks. I can’t pick one (laughs). Routes are everything
JM: I love that. You played both inside and outside at East Carolina. What were some of the differences there in the ECU offense, and what do you enjoy about each position?
BP: It’s definitely a blessing to be able to play both positions. I have the athletic ability to handle duties on the outside and in the slot.
Playing on the outside is so much fun because you get to have somebody in your face. You get that one-on-one battle out there. You tend to go deep a bit more on the outside. You run some go routes and some comebacks.
The inside is fun too because you may get matched up with a linebacker or safety. You get to run option routes and beat linebackers in coverage. You tend to get a bigger guy out there.
JM: That’s a great answer. What’s one strength of your game that doesn’t get talked about enough?
BP: I would say speed.
JM: You ran a 4.38 or a 4.41 at your mock Pro Day?
BP: I was definitely in the high 4.3s, that’s correct. I would think that if you asked any coaches or scouts at the next level, they would probably look at my tape and predict that I would run a high 4.5 but that’s not the case.
That’s what I’ve been hearing. I’m telling everybody that I actually run a lot faster than that. I’m excited to prove that throughout this process. I’m running in the high 4.3s every single day. I can’t wait to get in front of scouts and show them in person. I want them to pull out the stopwatches. I’m a lot faster than people think I am. I’m just a smooth cat. People don’t think I can run, but I really can.
JM: We love to hear that. You’re such a student of the game that I’m curious to hear how you’ll answer my next question. How do you approach a bigger, more physical cornerback differently than you do a smaller, shiftier one?
BP: Those bigger guys are tougher matchups because you have to be smart and be physical with them. They’re big, strong, and tall for a reason. You have to hold your own against them. You have to have some speed releases. That’s how you can throw them off and keep them from getting their hands on you. You have to play physical with them.
JM: We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft. How’s that process going for you, and which teams have you met with so far?
BP: I’ve been in communication with several teams. The process has been good to me. It’s a crazy process. I don’t know what the next guy’s process looks like. You can’t compare yourself. What’s meant for me will be for me. I’m just staying true to myself. I trust the process. I’m blessed to be in this position. I’m gonna keep working. I can only be myself. I’m gonna follow God’s plan for me.
JM: It’s great to hear that you’ve been in contact with so many teams. It’s inevitable that somebody is going to call you a “small school prospect” at some point throughout this process. The same thing will happen to your teammate D’Ante Smith, who is a fine prospect in his own right. How do you typically respond to the small school question?
BP: Football is football at the end of the day. If you’re a baller, it really doesn’t matter where you played. I don’t really believe in the big or small school thing. The competition can obviously be different, but you see all kinds of NFL players and Hall of Famers that came from different walks of life. That’s why I think all of that big school stuff can be BS sometimes. If you have talent, you have talent. If you can play, you can play.
At the end of the day, it’s all about who takes advantage of their opportunity.
JM: I love that answer. This has been great. I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, what kind of impact is Blake Proehl going to make at the next level?
BP: I’m gonna make a big impact at the next level. I’m going to be a consistent receiver in the NFL. I’m a guy that can get the job done. I can handle whatever my coaches ask of me. If they need me to go deep, make a play after the catch or move the chains on a short to intermediate route, I can do it all.
Whatever my coaches need, I can bring it home.