EAGAN, Minn. – "Music is in me."
That's what Blake Proehl told his mother, Kelly, when he was just 3 years old.
It's one of those things a toddler says that's written in a baby book but largely forgotten about. Until recently. Kelly Proehl shared the documented memory with her son shortly after he posted a video of himself singing "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon.
Blake, who has 10 thousand Instagram followers, has garnered more than 24,000 views on the moving music video.
Commentators on the video include his brother Austin, a receiver on the Chargers practice squad; his mom and his dad Ricky, who played 17 seasons in the NFL; Vikings teammates Alexander Mattison, Kellen Mond, Greg Joseph and Michael Pierce, among others; and players around the league such as Chargers receiver Keenan Allen and Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
The "fire" emoji is used over and over again, as is the "surprised" face emoji.
Mattison was in the Vikings training room the morning after Blake posted the video but hadn't yet seen it.
"I was doing treatment and I stopped 'cause I heard someone hit a quick note behind me," Mattison recalled with a laugh. "[Blake] was on the table and I said, 'Hold on now, did you just hit that note?' And he played it off like he couldn't sing, then told me check his Instagram 'cause he just posted."
Mattison said he "saw the video and confirmed that note I heard – and beyond."
An appreciator of the arts who's produced music himself, Mattison sent Blake's video to his brother.
"I love hearing beautiful voices, and me and my brother always send each other videos or songs that display 'them vocals,' as we call it," Mattison said. "I sent his video to my brother. So he's validated with me!"
Blake hasn't necessarily been caught off guard by the positive response, but he's also not entirely sure how to receive it.
"That's one of the reasons why I was kind of keeping that in the background, because I wasn't ready for that type of recognition musically. It was so new to me," Blake told Vikings.com. "This is such a new world to me. I didn't grow up taking it seriously, so this is a whole 'nother side of me that I've never let out.
"I was like, 'Oh gosh, I'm going to post this, and then when I go into work tomorrow, it's going to be a frenzy,' " he added with a laugh. "It's overwhelming support, it really is. All of them are like, 'Man, you can sing?!' "
It's a fair response from those who know Blake as the receiver out of East Carolina whom the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent. His teammates and coaches in Minnesota were impressed by Blake, who showed early flashes during minicamp and training camp before ending his rookie season with a torn ACL suffered during a joint practice with Denver.
Since then, he's garnered a reputation for his dedication to rehab and return to the field. He often was spotted buzzing around Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on an electric scooter before graduating to crutches and now simply a leg brace. When he's not in the training room, Blake it outside watching the team practice or working out in the weight room.
He's not usually singing, though, at least not in public. And that's something that might change.
Early love of music
Ask anyone in his family, and they'll tell you Blake always has shown an affinity for – and ability in – music.
"We shared a bathroom, and I just remember him always singing his heart out in the shower. Ever since he was a little kid," Austin joked. "He's always been talented and we always kind of joked with him about it at first."
Blake remembers singing "so loud" to whatever tunes happened to be on the radio or playing over the sound system in a grocery store.
"In the car, it didn't matter what it was, the radio had to be blasting full-volume. I was always screaming at the top of my lungs to lyrics and dancing," Blake said.
A three-sport athlete growing up, Blake used music as an "outlet" – something he never put any work into but deeply enjoyed and saw as a stress reliever. But when people overheard him and offered compliments on his voice, Blake brushed them off.
"I would always be like, 'No, I play sports,' " Blake recounted. "If you were that sporty kid growing up, that's what was cool to do. At the time, that's what I loved, and obviously still love, but at the time I didn't really take the music thing seriously."
His iTunes playlists cover a wide spectrum of genres. If he's working out? Usually rap or R&B. Driving in the summer or spending time at the beach? "I'll vibe with some country," he says. He appreciates throwback tunes and worship music, too. Pretty much everything is fair game, though he notes he's not a big heavy-metal guy.
"I'm pretty versatile," he said.
Music as an outlet
It's no secret that Blake has a passion for music. The part where he's a super talented singer, though? That's definitely been kept under wraps.
According to Blake, it wasn't until this past year or so that he started focusing more seriously on music – and that increased even more when he found himself on Injured Reserve.
Those initial days following the injury, Blake noted, were dark.
"It was really, really hard because this is something I've dreamed of since I was a kid, and I've worked so hard toward it. It was my dream to play in the NFL," he said. "So I finally get here, doing well … and then obviously this happened. I'd be lying if I said I was just totally fine. It was really, really tough.
"But I'll tell you what made it so much better: the people here in the building," Blake emphasized. "This organization is just amazing, and I wouldn't have dealt with it the same without these people. My teammates, trainers, coaches, just the staff in general. It's such a great place, and without them, I definitely would not be doing as well as I am."
Blake said the Vikings training staff has become like a second family to him over the past few months.
"It's a great experience," he said. "I look forward to coming into work every day and getting better and rehabbing. I would say I'm doing well. It was really tough at first, obviously, but every day it gets better."
And once again, music has become Blake's outlet.
In addition to immersing himself in football at the team facility, he's consistently made singing – and playing – another part of his life. Blake has never taken formal guitar lessons, and yet he's also naturally gifted in that area.
Austin recalled a couple of years ago visiting Blake in Greenville, North Carolina, and going with him to purchase a guitar.
"None of us in our family really thought it was much. Just kind of, 'Oh, he's getting a guitar, he's gonna try to learn,' knowing how hard it is to learn instruments – and he's never done that. Plus, we all knew that football was his love," Austin said. "But then we heard him play and were like, 'Holy smokes.'
"We all knew he could kind of sing. We didn't think he could do what he's doing now – just being straight-up honest," Austin added.
Writing songs & his story
What convinced Blake to finally share his voice with the worldwide web?
He credits his friend Landon Klick, who creates music – and actually is the one accompanying Blake in the video – for getting the wheels turning.
Landon joined the Proehls on a family vacation in summer 2020, and while spending some downtime in the room overheard Blake's shower serenade.
"I'm loud. Everybody can hear me in the apartment or wherever we are," Blake quipped. "He's like, 'Dude, you've gotta record. I don't even know what else to say. I've been begging you to do this.' So we did."
Blake showed the first video to just a handful of family members, and he was surprised to see them moved to tears while listening.
It suddenly occurred to Blake that he could make a positive impact on others through his voice.
"My favorite thing to do is help people. If I can do that through music, then that would be a huge dream of mine, to help people through things and relate to them on a deeper level, a deeper scale," he said.
So when Landon came to visit Blake in the Twin Cities earlier this month, the two of them set up and recorded the "Use Somebody" video in the receiver's Viking Lakes apartment.
"We recorded the day before I posted it. I was like, 'I think I'm ready,' " Blake said.
Austin was proud of Blake's decision to share his music.
"He didn't know what feedback he would get. People know him as a football player – not as a singer, a musician. He's never really been in that world of music, so he's new to it," Austin said. "He's always been accustomed to football. Football's [viewed as] such a masculine sport, and you've got to be 'tough' and 'hard' and all this stuff, and music, I feel like, is [along a different vein]."
It's an avenue Blake has whole-heartedly embraced. Along with studying the Vikings playbook and keeping up on his rehab, he's started recording additional covers, as well, such as John Mayer's "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," and is in the process of also writing his own songs.
There's no doubt about it: Blake still wishes he could be out on the football field this season with his teammates.
But he's thankful for the gift of music, the comfort of new friends and family, and his Christian faith for carrying him through.
"My faith is very strong," Blake said. "I really believe that everything happens for a reason. I think this is just one small chapter in a big novel, a big journey, of ultimately God's [plan]."
Like he commented on Blake's Instagram post, Austin is proud of and inspired by his younger brother.
"I think it's really cool to see the way that God has worked music through all this. It's really cool to see the process and the plan that God has for him," Austin said.
"I remember talking to him and was like, 'Dude, I wish I could give you my knee just so you could play and do what you need to do.' And he was like, 'Bro, I'm straight. I really am. I'm hurting, but I'm built for this,' " Austin continued. "He's gonna come back stronger than ever, and I think he's ultimately going to be able to make the most out of both these situations. God blessed him with a beautiful voice, with unbelievable talents on and off the football field, and I think he's going to excel in both. I can't wait to see how far he goes in both aspects."