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Former NFL player stuns ‘American Idol’ judges with his audition

A serious injury ended Blake Proehl's NFL career. But he's a singing "natural," judge Lionel Richie said.
Blake Proehl and his grandma at his "American Idol" audition.Eric McCandless / Disney

Former NFL player Blake Proehl is taking center stage on this season of “American Idol.”

In the premiere episode of the competition series's 22nd season, the wide receiver surprised the judges with his audition and backstory.

“I’m a little anxious. I’m not used to this at all,” Proehl told the judges at the top of his audition.

“What are you used to?” Katy Perry asked, prompting the “American Idol” hopeful to open up about the trajectory of his professional football career.

Proehl signed with the Minnesota Vikings in 2021 as an an undrafted free agent, but sustained a major injury three years later that forced him to leave the team.

The former football player became tearful as he described how doctors told him that it would be a “major success story” if he managed even to run again.

“My dad played in the league for about 17 years, and I grew up and kind of dedicated everything I know to football, and my dream was to make it to the NFL,” he explained. 

Proehl’s father is former wide receiver Ricky Proehl, who played at the 2000 Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.

“I wasn’t able to walk for so long. That’s where music kind of came in and saved me,” Proehl continued. 

Proehl shared that his grandmother, whom he calls "Nana," had encouraged him to pursue the "American Idol" audition. 

“She’s the reason why I have any confidence at all to be in this room,” he said, facing the judges.

Blake Proehl stunned "American Idol" judges. Eric McCandless / Disney

“Let’s bring her in!” Perry said of Proehl’s grandmother. She stood by the piano as Prohl sang “In Case You Didn’t Know” by Brett Young.

His audition left the show's judges moved. Perry mimed getting chills and tearing up while he was singing. Judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie seemed captivated by the performance, too.

Lionel Richie said Proehl's grandma is a "beacon."Eric McCandless / Disney

“Every grandma thinks their grandchildren are great, but you’re right!” Perry told Proehl once his performance was over. 

Bryan admired the way Proehl interpreted the song. "You just did that song the right way. In a very believable way. In a very innocent, vulnerable. Every girl that you sit down and sing that to, they're going to be melted better. Kind of like this one a minute ago," he said, pointing to Perry.

Richie said he wrote "one thing" that stood out from Proehl's audition: "Natural."

"Either you have it or you don't," he said. "And in this case, my friend, you have stepped into that oval with guts and gusto." He finished by saying he should listen to his grandmother's "pair of ears."

"That's a beacon," he continued.

Blake Proehl meeting Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie.Eric McCandless / Disney

The former NFLer was ultimately given the judge’s stamp of approval and a golden ticket for him to head to the next stage of the competition series best known as “Hollywood Week.”