In the mid-1970s when he was a star cornerback with the Denver Broncos, Billy Thompson would frequently take the short drive to Boulder on Saturdays to watch the University of Colorado play. The Buffaloes highlighted a speed recipient from Houston by the name of Cliff Branch.
Thompson was amazed by the youngster wideout. Much to his dismay that Branch would later torment him on Sundays two times per year.
“Normally, when we were getting ready to play a team, the coaches were very general. But when we got to play against the Raiders, my coach would say plenty of the things about Cliff. He liked to go deep. I’m telling you, he was very, very quick,” Thompson, who was a three-time Pro Bowl player and played against Branch for 10 seasons, told Silver and Black Pride. “Dangerous. He was a guy you had to pay attention to. He was one of the fastest receivers I saw play. Of course, he played college (at the University of Colorado) and I would go see some of his games. So, I knew what was coming. When he went to the Raiders, I said ‘Oh my God, here we go.’ He was unbelievable. He is a speed legend.”
On Saturday, the Raiders’ amazing wide recipient will be drafted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Branch kicked the bucket at 71 years old in 2019. He spent his whole NFL profession with the Raiders and was essential for every one of the three Super Bowl-winning groups
The branch is considered an NFL groundbreaker. He was one of the primary extraordinary vertical dangers and he is the perfect example of Raiders’ Hall of Fame proprietor Al Davis’ interest in speed recipients. Branch upset the NFL with profound pass plays.
He found the middle value of 17.3 yards a catch in his profession and had 67 score gets in his vocation. Branch, a fourth-round draft pick, was delayed to get his NFL profession going. He attempted to wed his game-changing velocity and his hands. Once, he sorted it out, however, Branch turned into a star. In his third season, he drove the NFL in getting yards. He was a first-group All-Pro determination from 1974-76 and he played four straight in Pro Bowl groups.
“When Cliff first came into the NFL, he dropped a lot of balls. He may have been fast, but you have to catch it, too,” said Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano, who was teammates with Branch for eight seasons, told us. “But, finally, when learned to catch with that speed and that mentality, it all came together. I give George Blanda credit for working with Cliff after practice. Blanda must have thrown him a million balls. It took about two years, but, when it did, Cliff was a monster weapon.”
Individual previous Branch partner, cornerback Lester Hayes praised Branch for his exceptional gifts.
“No. 21 was a super stud. Fred Biletnikoff taught Cliff Branch movement in pass routes,” said star Lester Hayes. ‘It wasn’t just vertical. Cliff had flexible speed. Most speed guys are straight line, but Cliff had such flexible joints, hips and in his knees. Cliff was different. He was blessed with speed. His body was flexible. A receiver with flexible speed is very unique. It was a gift.”
Not at all like Hayes, Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes needed to manage Branch as an adversary in his days with New England, prior to collaborating with Branch for three seasons. Haynes partook in that time much better.
“There is no doubt he was one of the greatest receivers during his time,” Haynes said. “I was fortunate to have him on my team after covering him earlier in my career. Having him on my team was a lot more fun. It would be hard to find one single defensive back who enjoyed covering him. There weren’t many guys who could accelerate like he did. In fact, there was no one like him.”
Raiders’ Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen won a Super Bowl with Branch and can hardly hold on to celebrate him in Canton this end of the week. However, Allen can’t resist the urge to be a piece despairing that Branch isn’t alive to encounter his enlistment. Many individuals accepted Branch is being cherished a lot later than he ought to have been. His vocation measurements contrast well with numerous recipients who have proactively been cherished.
“I’m beyond thrilled he’s finally getting in but it’s also a bittersweet time because he’s not going to be there,” Allen told Silver and Black Pride. “I will be there and it will be really bittersweet. I just wish he would have lived to see this. He was a great teammate. If you look at what he did and compare his stats to receivers who got there before him, I just wish the election committee would have gotten him in sooner. He belongs.”
Ironically like his quarterback Ken “Snake’ Stabler, Branch will be going into Canton after his demise. Stabler was cherished in 2016, the late spring after he passed on at 69 years old. Stabler’s girl, Kendra Stabler Moyes, loves the way that Branch was at his dad’s reverence and wants to have seen each other get in. They were dear companions until her dad’s passing.
“I’m thrilled for the Branch family, but I’m so sad because it meant so much to Cliff,” Stabler Moyes told us. “Like my dad did, he deserved to be there. I just don’t understand why it took until after they died. Their stats and accomplishments didn’t change. So confused; I don’t understand … My dad would be thrilled. He and Cliff, like the whole team, all remained so close. That was special. Cliff came to Canton (in 2016) when my dad went in and he spoke at the after party. He was so excited and he had to be thinking ‘I’m next.’ I’m sure my dad and Cliff are having their own party, with coach (John) Madden and the other guys.”