Where Are They Now? Super Bowl Hero Ricky Proehl

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Snapshots always accompany moments that we now regard as legend. During the 1999 NFC Championship Game, the imagery provides a perfect prelude for the events to come. Kurt Warner under center, viewers unable to peer inside his facemask as he barks out instructions to his offensive unit. The anonymous Rams fan with the blue helmet with yellow stripes on top; face covering her mouth like she is watching her son play in the crucial moments of a state title game. Shifting to the right of the screen we see another individual with the same attire; sitting down with his hands together in the universally known position of prayer. The prelude to moments like this forces the mind to think that only the impossible will achieve victory for their team. Because, when facing defeat, logic seems to dictate the inevitable failure.

The man lined up in the outside receiver position was Ricky Proehl. Taken in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, At Wake Forest University, Proehl accumulated 2,949 receiving yards (still a school record), 25 touchdowns (yet another school record) while also ranking in the top-five in receptions and receiving average. After spending four years with the Cardinals, he spent two years in Seattle and one in Chicago. In 1998 he ended up with the St. Louis Rams to team up with an even more seasoned journeyman, Kurt Warner. But sometimes it isn’t statistical benchmarks that determine a player’s legacy. Sometimes all of that doesn’t matter when a few key moments can make you a legend.

With just under five minutes left to play, Kurt Warner took a five-step drop. There was no look-off or pump-fake. Warner was going left and he was going deep. He was going in the direction of Ricky Prohel. The best parts about great moments are the grey areas. When the ball is in the air, the mind disregards speculation. Thoughts simply halt while that ball travels to the corner of the end zone towards the pile-on. Every fan’s emotion, player legacies, every sports story and all subsequent NFL history hinges on what happens when the ball comes down. When No. 87 Ricky Proehl reached over No. 25 Brian Kelly to secure the touchdown, the metamorphosis from fleeting moment to solidified legend was complete.

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