Spirit of St. Louis
Rams' forgotten receiver makes unforgettable catch
Posted: Sunday February 06, 2000 07:12 PM
Rams WR Ricky Proehl took full advantage of a rare opportunity to step into the spotlight on Sunday. Al Bello/Allsport
By Rich Loup, CNNSI.com
ST. LOUIS -- Ricky Proehl is a microcosm of the St. Louis Rams.
Just as people forgot the Rams were in the National Football League for nine seasons, including a move to from Los Angeles to St. Louis, Proehl rarely stood out to the average fan.
Proehl more than stood out in Sunday's NFC Championship, catching six passes for 100 yards and his team's only touchdown in an 11-6 victory that put the Rams in the Super Bowl.
And Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy sure noticed as he congratulated and teased Proehl in the bowels of the Trans World Dome following the game. So did St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner, who loudly interrupted Proehl's general media session with a loud scream of Proehl's name and a giant bearhug.
"Every year, guys are just trying to look for a bigger, faster, shinier player than Ricky Proehl," he said as he drew a media mob outside the interview room and later around his locker. "I've been around for 10 years, but I know I can still play this game. I feel like I've been consistent for the 10 years that I played. When I get opportunities, I feel I make plays."
On Sunday, Proehl made the most of his chance, getting more exposure in the Rams' offense following injuries to rookie Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim at various points during the game. And Proehl was a backup option on the play that gave his team the lead for good.
St. Louis' Ricky Proehl holds the George Halas Trophy as he celebrates with teammates. AP
With the Rams facing third-and-4 at the Tampa Bay 30, Proehl became the main option on "585 H-Choice" following a safety blitz by the Bucs.
"In the huddle, it was a TV timeout and Kurt [Warner] said 'If the safety comes down the middle of the field, we're going to the fade,'" Proehl said. "If they hadn't blitzed, it probably would have gone somewhere else."
Proehl said running back Marshall Faulk probably would have been the first option had Tampa Bay not blitzed. That's fitting for a guy who wandered through the league on some bad teams for nine seasons.
Proehl started with Phoenix in 1990 and stayed with the Cardinals through their name change to Arizona in '94 before moving to Seattle. After the '95-96 seasons with Seattle, Proehl went to Chicago for another year before landing with the Rams in '98.
Ten long years finally have paid off for Proehl and the Rams, who parlayed their first postseason since 1989 into a trip to the Super Bowl.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," Proehl said. "You play for nine years ('90-98) and the best you've been is 8-8 ... but this year has been so much fun. This is a great football team. The guys get along so well, and you appreciate it more. You savor every moment. These young guys don't know how hard it is to get to this point. These first- and second-year guys, they think it's supposed to be like this every year.
"If I was going to do it, I'd rather do it in my 10th year than my first year," Proehl said. "I'd like to think I'm a symbol of what St. Louis is all about. They're blue-collar people that work hard and just try to be consistent every day. I just try to go out there, bring my lunchbox and bust my [butt] every day."
But after 10 years of consistency on consistent losers, some welcomed inconsistency of the Super Bowl has entered the lives of Proehl and the Rams' franchise.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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