CHARLOTTE – Austin Proehl and Gavin Greene had deep footsteps to follow when they stepped onto the Panthers' practice field as tryout players during rookie minicamp this weekend.
Austin Proehl is the son of Ricky Proehl, former Panthers wide receiver (2003-05) and former assistant coach (2011-16). Austin, 27, has been chasing his own dream as a professional wide receiver since 2018, and the Charlotte native carried a load of childhood Carolina memories from his father's time as a player and coach with him into his tryout.
"I've been so blessed to be a part of his career, to be a part of his path," Proehl said. "And now to be here and be creating my own path, having my fifth year in the league, and just continuing to be in buildings and organizations that are great. It's a blessing."
Gavin Greene's father, Kevin Greene, was a Pro Football Hall of Fame pass rusher who spent his last two seasons as a player in the NFL with the Panthers from 1998-99. Gavin, a 25-year-old linebacker, said it felt "surreal" to try out for the Panthers, a team his late father played with.
Kevin Greene passed away in December 2020 after a heart attack.
"Apparently, these walls haven't changed since my dad played," Gavin Greene said. "So I'm legit walking the same exact paths that my dad did. And that's really special to me, especially in the current situation with him being gone and everything. It means a lot to me."
Greene said he felt like his father would've been "jubilant" to know he was trying out for the Panthers and that he would've cheered him on just like he always did.
Now, Gavin Greene channels Kevin Greene's passion for life and football – and his physical nature on the field too.
"My dad loved life," Greene said. "He was a very passionate dude, and I definitely got that gene from my dad. I don't know how else you live life. … You've got to go through life loving every minute of it and just plugging along. That's what my dad did. Before he left this planet, that's what he imparted on me. To make sure just to love every moment, live in the moment, and make the most of it."
Proehl has an intimate understanding of the Panthers, having worked as a ball boy while his father was an assistant coach and getting to know former Carolina players Cam Newton and Steve Smith Sr. Proehl was a ball boy when the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl for the 2015 season.
"I spent a lot of time here," Proehl said. "A lot of days, a lot of nights, whether he was coaching or playing. It was pretty cool, just being in these stands, being on the sidelines when me and my brother were ball boys here. It's just cool. A lot of the guys are the same. And this city deserves a great team – a winning team. I think coach Reich and the staff that they brought in here, top to bottom, are going to bring that to the city. I think what they're doing here is special."
Panthers head coach Frank Reich had positive words about Proehl and Greene after rookie minicamp wrapped on Saturday afternoon, leaving impressed with their demeanors.
"They've been around a little bit," Reich said of Proehl and Greene. "It was kind of cool. Obviously, I know both of their dads. They both looked good. So it was good to have them out there. You can tell that – like I said, they've just been around this world and carry themselves in that way. (They) understand football, and it shows."
As their tryouts for the Panthers wrapped on Saturday, Proehl and Greene are linked by their shared hope to make it in the league as their fathers did.
"I think it's awesome; both of our pops made a way for themselves for our families," Proehl said. "Growing up, we both were blessed, growing up with dads who set an example for us to follow. And I think he'd say the same thing. We both want to create our own path. We both want to make a name for ourselves. And I think our dads would back that up."
Check out photos from the Panthers' last day of rookie minicamp on Saturday.