Welcome to the Omega Sports Podcast, hosted by Doug “the shoe guy.”
In this episode, we talk to former NFL wide receiver Ricky Proehl at his community and family focused sports facility in Greensboro, NC. We learn what it takes to make your dreams come true on and off the football field.
Side note: We are recording at Proehlific Park, so it’s best you close your eyes and pretend you are there allowing for the audio’s additional background noise and reverb to add to the experience.
Ricky is a 17 year veteran of the NFL. He went to the Super Bowl four times and has won twice.
For Ricky, the 2000 NFC Championship is what he sees as his standout moment, making the catch to help his team get into the Super Bowl. After several years of playing for teams he felt played as individuals, he finally felt like he found a team.
The early years
Ricky Proehl grew up New Jersey. He has tons of wonderful memories of growing up in the neighborhood. He lived on a horseshoe street with large backyards to play baseball, football and soccer. They rode bikes and did the things that kids did.
He grew up with a bunch of kids his age and they played sports according the season. It grew his love of competition and sports.
In 1976, the Giants moved to New Jersey and he and his dad had season tickets. He joked with his dad that one day, he would play there.
Predicting the future
As a high school student he would practice his signature. He dreamed of playing in the NFL and figured people would one day want it. He has a framed 8×10 notepad from his high school junior year. On it, it has his signature, the number 20. He, also, wrote in 10 years he hopes to be a NFL player and in 20 years a successful business owner. They folded up the notepad and put it behind the periodic table in science class. They remodeled the classroom 7ish years ago and when his teacher found it and sent it to him. Now it sits framed in his place of business, Proehlific Park.
Moving to North Carolina
His senior year was very productive for football. He wasn’t heavily recruited until then. Both Wake Forest and West Virginia showed interest in him. West Virginia had everything, but he didn’t have the same feelings he had visiting Wake Forest. He felt Wake Forest was a better fit, so that is where he went. It was at Wake Forest he would meet his wife.
When he was traded from Phoenix to Seattle, he started to think about putting down roots. Ricky and his wife looked back to their time in NC fondly and settled into Greensboro, NC for their home base. It is centrally located in the state of NC and a change from where he was raised. But it felt right. His wife has roots in Raleigh, they wanted to be close to Charlotte and it was close to their alma mater, Wake Forest.
They fell in love with Greensboro. The small town feel with a thriving community makes it a perfect place to raise a family and build a business.
Ricky Proehl, the football player
The first 9 years were rough. A lot of frustrations, despite personal success. The novelty of playing for the NFL wears off when you aren’t winning. But he learned a lot. “Everybody can do it when you win it. It’s easier when you win,” says Ricky. It’s a message he carries forward with him.
Despite these early setbacks, he pulled from his childhood to keep pushing forward. He thought of an older kid who would at times bully him and he credits that with molding him into what he is today. He taught him to fight for himself and not be pushed around.
He led the Cardinals 4 out of 5 years and was told he wasn’t good enough. He was traded to Seattle and never had much of an opportunity to be on the field. He fought to be released and signed in Chicago as the third receiver. He ended up starting. When the first string got healthy, he ended back up on street clothes and was eventually let go. He was upset to say the least.
He went to St. Louis in 1998. They lost in his first year. After trades and acquisitions they began winning. Finally, Ricky was able to enjoy success after all his hard work. He continued to play professional until 2006. He continued with the NFL, coaching for the Carolina Panthers from 2011 to 2016.
Ricky Proehl, the business leader and community builder
It wasn’t easy to transition from sports to business. But his career in the NFL showed him what it took to be successful. He learned about working together as a team towards a common goal. Having a business is no different. You still need that team, that buy in.
What brought the idea for Proehlific Park was the need for a place that kids could play. He thought of his youth and the big yards they had access to. This was not the case for him as an adult. And he wanted to create that space for kids to be kids at whatever level they wanted to play.
There were road bumps. Finding land was difficult. Then getting it zoned took a year and a half and made him feel like he was on trial. They finally broke ground and the dream became a reality. He lost his business partner. He struggled to gain buy in and bring people in his mission, a safe haven for kids to thrive and a place for families. They came close to foreclosing.
Like everything else in his life, he fought through the adversity. He pushed aside his fears of “I can’t do this.” And now, Proehlific Park brings through 450,000 people yearly. He is continuing his dreams by inspiring people through sports, bringing his career full circle.
Through Proehlific Park, Ricky is helping build the Greensboro community. It has been 12 years since he opened. They now have a thriving pickleball league, an after school program and an adult fitness center. It is a place that is built around family. With baseball, basketball, field hockey, flag football leagues and both indoor and outdoor fields, Proehlific has really grown with the community.
The thing Ricky is most proud of is the $200,000 inclusive playground. It is wheelchair accessible and has sensory games for children with Autism. Families who may not have come to Proehlific are now visiting because of this space. No longer do they have to drive far distances, right here in Guildford County an inclusive play place exists.
Being open for 12 years, they have been able to work with kids who have now grown up and come to work part time and full time with the park. They have seen kids go on to play in high school and college and even to the pros. For Ricky, being around greatness helps people become better. And he hopes that is what he is able to impart on children within the community and beyond.
The definition of prolific is to be productive, to be fruitful and to enrich the lives of people. And that is what they do at Proehlific Park. It is a place for everyone in the community.