CHARLOTTE – Ricky Proehl is stepping away from the Panthers to fulfill a promise to his son, Austin, who just finished his junior season as a wide receiver at the University of North Carolina.
"I always told him when he started at Chapel Hill that if he became a starter or an impact player, that I would walk away to come to all his games," Proehl explained. "It would really hurt me to not be there for him.
"The first thing kids do is look back for mom and dad. That doesn't change, no matter how old you are. For the last three years for Austin, I haven't been there when he's looked back. He's got one year left, and I want to be there for him."
On Monday, Proehl resigned from his post as wide receivers coach for the Panthers after six seasons with the organization.
"It's extremely hard, because they are also family to me," Proehl said of the Carolina wideouts. "The thing I preach in our meeting room is family. That's my teaching style. We're in this together. We're selfless, and we all have a common goal.
"There's not enough time to talk about all the experiences, all the memories and the moments that we've shared."
Proehl wants to share more experiences, memories and moments with his son, so a difficult decision had to be made.
A trip to Charlottesville during the Panthers' bye week made things clear for Proehl. The Tar Heels battled the Virginia Cavaliers, and Proehl was there to watch his son catch a 46-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter of a North Carolina victory.
"I was on the sidelines, and to see him catch a post for a long touchdown, man, it was just exhilarating," Proehl said. "I know it meant so much to him for me to be there. It meant so much to me.
"And then there was the Sun Bowl against Stanford, and I wasn't there. Watching him have a tremendous game and not being there made me realize…"
Proehl wants to be a father first and foremost. But between Austin and his younger son Blake, who is set to become a freshman wide receiver at East Carolina University, Proehl has a pair of pupils eager to learn from dad.
"I love coaching. This has been a wonderful experience. I learned a tremendous amount," said Proehl, who is leaving the door open to coaching in the NFL again. "It's a passion of mine. I feel like I have a lot to offer. Fortunately for me, I'm able to do that for my own two boys, and that's what I'll do."