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Chargers 90-in-90: WR Austin Proehl

Proehl is hoping to go from XFL standout to NFL player with the Bolts.

Los Angeles Chargers mini camp 2021 Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Austin Proehl, son of former NFL wideout Ricky Proehl, was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina where he starred for Providence High School and head coach Randy Long as a wide receiver and return specialist.

During his senior season, Proehl caught 89 passes for 1,190 yards and eight touchdowns. His performance earned him a nod to the state’s Shrine Bowl and a selection to the Blue-Grey All-American Game which was played in Tampa Bay, Florida. The First-Team All Mecklenburg selection helped his team to a 8-5 record and a birth in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-AA state playoffs.

Proehl chose to stay nearby and committed to play his college ball at the University of North Carolina. He saw the field as a true freshman, catching 15 passes for 106 yards while playing a reserve role in all 12 games. His sophomore season was more of the same as Proehl played in a 12 games with no starts en route to catching another 12 passes for 225 yards and his first career touchdown.

As a junior, Proehl started seven games and finished the season with career-highs of 43 receptions, 597 yards, and three touchdowns. He also led his team with seven catches and 91 yards during the team’s Sun Bowl performance.

Proehl’s final season in Chapel Hill was unfortunately ravaged by an injury what was first thought to have been season-ending, but ended up limiting him to just six games. When healthy, Proehl caught 21 passes for 337 yards and a lone score. That year, he was also a finalist for the AFCA Good Works team and the Wuerffel Trophy.

After graduating UNC, Proehl was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round back in 2018. After being let go during final cuts, Proehl signed with the Titans but lasted just one day with the team.

In October of 2018, Proehl signed with the Rams and stayed with the team until he was another casualty of final cuts prior to the 2019 season. In October of 2019, Proehl was drafted by the Seattle Dragons of of the XFL. He would go on to catch several touchdowns for his team before the league went under due to the pandemic. He ended the abbreviated season with 16 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns.

In January of 2021, Proehl signed a reserve/future contract but was later cut on May 17. One day later, he was signed by the Chargers.

Basic Info

Height: 5’10
Weight: 185
College: North Carolina
Experience: 1
Years with team: 0

Contract Status

“Austin Proehl signed a 1 year, $660,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $660,000. In 2021, Proehl will earn a base salary of $660,000, while carrying a cap hit of $660,000.” - Spotrac.com

The Good

Proehl has the prototypical size for a slot receiver in this league and has already shown the shiftiness to play such a role early in camp. He’s got decent hands and isn’t afraid to extend and pluck balls out of the air, despite it opening him up for the big hit. Proehl also has an ideal understanding of leverage and how to exploit it in his routes.

The Bad

Proehl’s lack of production in college is a bit concerning although his final year was derailed due to a pretty serious injury. That, in itself, is also a concern that can’t be ignored. The former Tarheel also boasts a fairly underwhelming athletic profile with low numbers in power and explosion but he did put up elite scores in his agilities.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2021?

After joining the team earlier this offseason, Proehl was an afterthought in the receiver room until training camp got underway. Thus far in the team’s seven practices, Proehl has received plenty of reps as a punt returner while also mainly seeing time with the second-team offense. On Tuesday’s practice, Proehl also caught a touchdown pass from Justin Herbert, which means he snuck in some reps with the starters.

At the moment, Proehl has as good of a case as any of the young receivers to make the team from just this small sample size. It honestly would not surprise me to Proehl earn a spot ahead of both 2020 draft picks, Joe Reed and K.J. Hill.