HENDERSON (Nev.) — Cliff Branch was just finishing sixth grade when, at his father’s 4ThHouston's July company picnic saw boys of all ages and sizes line up for the main event of the day — a footrace.
What is the prize?
Elaine Anderson, the sister of Branch, recalls that her brother held up a box full of Chinese checkers. He beat everyone. Older boys. Bigger boys, Everyone. He was still raving about Chinese checkers all the way to home.
“That's when he realized that he could actually run. This little bitty. This is when we KnowHe could run.”
With Thursday's announcement of Branch, the formerBranch, a deep-threat receiver at 5'11” (in lifts) weighing 170 lbs (with rocks in the pockets and soaking soaked), was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August as a Senior Finalist. His spirit continued to run… to Canton in Ohio.
It's two years, six weeks and one week since Branch died from natural causes in Bullhead City (Arizona) at a memorabilia signing just two days after he turned 71.st birthday.
Raiders owner Mark Davis once served as Branch’s agent in contract negotiations with his father, the late Al Davis.
Mark Davis said that he was his best friend. “What a wonderful journey we shared. Together, we've seen it all. I am so sorry that his life was short. I love him deeply. His family should get the recognition they deserve. Two days after he had lost his home, he was still there. [in the Santa Rosa, California]Fires, he was there in Las Vegas helping victims and their families after the Oct. 1 shooting. This is the kind of man he was.
“There is nobody more deserving. It's amazing to see how talented he was. He was a game-changer. He changed the way defenses covered people and made it easier for people to find a receiver. Every team must now have at least one speed receiver. This guy caused fear in their hearts.
Branch, a four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro selection over a career that spanned from 1972-85 was the embodiment of the Raiders' renowned vertical passing game. Davis spent the last quarter of his life searching for the next Cliff Branch.
Branch, a fourth-round selection from Colorado, caught 501 passes to 8,685 yards (17.3 yards/ catch) and 67 touchdowns over his NFL career. Branch was one of six Raiders Super Bowl champion players (1976, 1980, and 1983). He had a total of 14 catches for 181 yards in those championship games.
Branch performed better under brighter lights. Branch caught 73 passes for 1,289 yard (17.7 ypc) in 22 career postseason games. These figures were NFL records at the time Branch retired. His playoff receiving yards rank fifth.
Branch, who had five postseason touchdown catches, also learned at Fred Biletnikoff's knee. He called him “father.” Branch was the NFL's leading receiver with 1,092 yards and 13 touchdown receptions. His 12 touchdown catches were the league's best in 1976 when he averaged 24.2 yards per catch.
His catch-and-run TD of Jim Plunkett at Washington, which was 99 yards long, is tied for the longest in league History.
Anderson stated, “I know that I am biased,” but Anderson did not mention whether he should be in. [the Hall]. Look at his stats. They couldn't find a way to cover him. They could not catch him.
Branch, who ran a 100-yard sprint in 9.3 seconds at Houston’s Worthing High School, said that daily competition and having to deal with the Raiders bump-and-run made him a better receiver.
Branch stated in 2014 that he had been with Willie Brown for seven and Mike Haynes for three years, and both of them are in the Hall of Fame. Branch said, “So I was able to make it easy on Sundays by going against the best defensive backs in practice every single day.”
Branch was never more than a semifinalist in the regular Hall ballot. This despite having stats that were comparable to or better than John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, both Hall of Famer. After his death, Branch was a finalist in the Blue Ribbon Committee's Centennial Class 2020. However, Harold Carmichael was elected to replace him. Branch was nominated this year after Drew Pearson, who had been a Centennial finalist for 2020, got in.
Branch was a member of the International Pro Track Association, and competed in Tokyo during the offseason. Branch said that he and George Atkinson were inspired by Arthur Ashe's African-American tennis player.
Branch, who had lost his Santa Rosa home in 2017's Santa Rosa firestorm, managed escape with his Super Bowl rings as well as his car and some cash that he kept in a safe. His Raiders memorabilia collection, Mark Davis stated, was lost. It could have been used to furnish a museum.
Anderson replied, “I asked him once what he had lost.” Anderson continued, “And he just said to me, ‘I thank God that I have a life. “I thank God for the gift of my life.”
Anderson choked up.
She stated, “He was correct.” He was right.
Branch was the 29th Hall of Famer to be recognized by the Raiders. He caught passes against all the NFL teams between 1960 and 1994.
Branch also led the NFL in receiving yards with 6,047 between 1974-80, surpassing the output of Gold Jacket holders Stallworth and Swann, Carmichael. Pearson, Charlie Joiner, and Steve Largent.
Other Hall of Famers also participated.
“In one game”Mel Blount (Hall of Fame cornerback) said that Mel “he embarrassed and got me benched.”
AddedKenny Easley Hall of Fame Safety: “I lined him up 13-15 meters from him and it wasn’t enough. He ordered two defenders.”
His speed was what separated him.
Branch, Branch's coach for seven of his first seven seasons, said that Branch was a powerful-running team. “He took the top off defenses and required multiple defenders to load the box,” he added. “He was always a crucial part of our team, whether we ran or passed.”
What is Transcendent?
Hall of Fame running back said, “Many of the Hall of Fame guys couldn't play today”Branch was Branch's Raider teammate between 1982 and 1985. “Cliff could play yesterday or today. He would be a disaster if he played today.
Branch's three-year-old sister said that it was bittersweet to see him get voted in the Hall.
She said, “Bitter because it's not his turn to get it.” “But sweet because it would be history. So, I view it positive. Knowing the end of everything would bring us great peace. For him, that's the ultimate.
“He literally said, “I will go!” [into the Hall of Fame]Either in 2019 or 2020. He knew his time was coming. He said, “If you go in '20,” I'll be first Raider at the new stadium. If I go in '19 I'll be as last Raider from Oakland's old stadium.
Branch wore No. 21 was chosen as the seniors candidate for 2021, before being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2022.
Anderson had a congratulatory gift plan for Branch if Branch wasn't around.
She said that she was going to Amazon.com and present him with a game Chinese checkers.