North Carolina product Austin Proehl was one of two wide receivers the Buffalo Bills took in the 2018 NFL draft. The Bills selected Proehl with the second-to-last pick in the draft (255th overall), a round later than where they took their other wide receiver, Ray-Ray McCloud.
Proehl, 22, spent four years at North Carolina, racking up 1265 yards and five touchdowns on 91 career receptions, per Sports Reference. He’s the son of ex-NFL player, Ricky, who played 17 seasons with six different clubs.
Here’s what the younger Proehl said in his first interaction with the media as a member of the Bills:
Q: Congratulations, Austin. Just how do you feel about this and what was, did you have any inclination [that] the Bills might pick you?
A: Not to say I was expecting it, but I had worked out with the Bills, I talked to them a couple times, I knew they were looking for a slot guy possibly and I just kind of tried to stay level-headed with it. I knew they had a pick near the end of the seventh. I’m just thankful God thanked me with this position and to be a Buffalo Bill. I’m so excited. I’m so excited for the opportunity.
Q: Obviously your dad coached on staff with Sean McDermott [in Carolina] there and Brandon Beane. You obviously have to have a pre-existing relationship. Can you just kind of walk us through how well you know the GM and Coach here?
A: Yeah, I mean I’ve had a pre-existing relationship with them. Coach McDermott’s a great coach first and foremost. [Brandon] Beane, obviously a great GM and they’re both guys I respect in the highest honor and I can’t wait to play for them. I can’t wait to uphold the Buffalo Bills standard that they play with and come off a great year that they’ve already had.
Q: You were hurt as a senior, I think it was a foot injury, right?
A: It was a broken collarbone. I broke my collarbone.
Q: Broken collarbone, I’m sorry. Just how difficult was that to deal with and are you 100 percent now?
A: It was definitely hard to deal with; football’s everything to me. It’s my life; I’ve been around it my whole life ever since I was born, but it’s something that God put me through and it made me realize how much I love this game. It took me away for five and a half weeks and I was blessed enough to come back with two weeks left in the season. I’m 100 percent healthy now. I’m ready to go to work, I’m ready to give Buffalo and all the fan-base everything I have each and every day.
Q: Did you run a 4.41 at the regional combine?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: How much of an influence has your dad been on your playing career?
A: [He was] a huge influence. [He] just continued to stay with me, stay hard on me, have that coach and dad relationship that we have. It’s huge, just being able to look to him in certain situations: look to him when I need it and look to him in ways that he pushes me. It’s just an unbelievable resource for me. Throughout this process, he’s been able to teach me things and give me advice that I could’ve never got from anyone else in this world. I’m so thankful for him. God blessed me with a great opportunity to have him as a dad and a coach. Having him was everything through this process.
Q: Austin, why should Bills fans be excited about you coming to Buffalo?
A: I think they should be excited about someone who loves the game. I know how passionate Buffalo is and their fan-base is about their Bills and that’s how I am about the game of football. Each and every day, I’m going to come in to work and I’m going to give it everything I got. I’m going to bust my ass to provide on the field and continue to prove myself each and every day because that’s how this business works.
Q: Austin, how much contact did you have with the Bills in the pre-draft process?
A: I met with them a couple times. I met with them at my PA game. I met with them in Tampa for my regional combine and then I also had a private workout with Coach Chad Hall, their assistant receiver coach; me and him really hit it off. It was cool to be able to get to know him a little bit. From there, we haven’t had much contact, but I had faith that we had a good workout and I had faith that they believed in me as a player. Being a player, that was something that really helped me and just the fact that I felt like they believed in me, I had that faith, so that was something that was big for me.
Q: Austin, is that your phone I hear blowing up in the background?
A: Yes, sir, I’m so sorry.
Q: [Laughs] It’s okay, [it’s the] best day of your life. Tell us about it. Tell us about when you got that call.
A: Man, I don’t even know how to put it into words; I’m speechless. It’s one of those things where my family and friends are here and it’s a lifelong dream. Ever since I was born, I’ve been going to football games, I’ve been watching my dad, I’ve been a ball boy, I’ve been around it. To be able to be in this position, God blessed me and I truly feel like the most blessed human being on Earth right now just because, with being hurt my senior year and to have these coaches believe in me, to have a new set of teammates, it’s unbelievable. It’s such a blessing and I can’t wait to get to work.