Blake Proehl was primed to make an immediate contribution for the East Carolina football team this year. But his true freshman season ended literally before it had a chance to get started.
The three-star wide receiver, whose father played in a Super Bowl for the Carolina Panthers and whose brother is a senior at North Carolina, suffered an ACL tear during the first practice of preseason camp last Thursday.
He is scheduled to undergo surgery on Wednesday and will miss the entire season.
“His first time going out and practicing college football and that happened to him in a non-contact drill,” Pirates coach Scottie Montgomery said in announcing the injury. “It’s very unfortunate. But you know what? He’s the type of person and he comes from the type of background that he’s going to get over it. We have his back.”
Proehl caught 80 passes for 1,424 yards and 14 touchdowns during his career at Providence High School in Charlotte before coming to ECU.
Even though the Pirates return a deep receiving corps, he put himself in position to play right away with a strong performance during offseason workouts. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound freshman will now be redshirted, according to Montgomery.
“Since I was little I’ve dreamed of playing college football,” Proehl wrote in Twitter post. “I never imagined a setback like this but God’s plan is greater.”
Proehl is the latest in his family’s line of talented receivers.
Father Ricky Proehl was a standout at Wake Forest before going on to a 17-year NFL career in which he recorded 669 receptions, scored touchdowns for six different teams and won Super Bowl rings with the 1999 St. Louis Rams and 2006 Indianapolis Colts.
Brother Austin Proehl is UNC’s top returning pass catcher after grabbing 43 balls for 597 yards and three scores as a junior last season.
Although he’s busy preparing for his own season with the Tar Heels, Austin said he’s doing everything he can to help keep Blake’s spirits up.
“The last thing I want him to do is feel like he let our family down,” Austin said. “I just tried to text him and say I’m proud of him. He’s keeping his head up. I’m talking to him every day trying to be positive with him and telling him that this isn’t the end of anything. He’s only a freshman.”
Austin said he’s taking Blake’s injury harder than his brother.
“I was devastated,” he said. “He’s more than a little brother to me. We have a special relationship.
“To see all the hard work he’s put in to get where he is — to do what he’s done since he’s been there, running with the ones and having such an impact already — then go down like that, I was just speechless. I hurt for him.”
In addition to losing Proehl to injury, Montgomery said that ECU will also be without defensive end Yiannis Bowden and running back Anthony Scott this season. Both are academically ineligible.
Bowden was expected to be a key element in the Pirates’ new 4-2-5 scheme after being moved from outside linebacker last season, where he made 42 tackles. Scott ranked second on the team with 413 rushing yards and caught 23 passes, but was plagued by an excessive number of fumbles.
Another player who was academically ineligible last season, wide receiver Trevon Brown, is back in good standing. But his status for the season is still uncertain because of a neck injury suffered during spring practice.