Cliff Branch’s Hall of Fame Election Delayed but Not Denied

Enshrinement Published on : 2/20/2022
Cliff Branch was an integral part of the Oakland Raiders’ “Commitment to Excellence” as a three-time Super Bowl champion from 1972 to 1986. 

His forte was his speed. He could have been an Olympic track star but loved football too much, said his sister, Elaine Anderson, who represented him during Super Bowl Week.

“Starting when he was 8, Cliff asked everyone to just give him anything football as a gift. Football cards, board games, electronic football and then, piece by piece, a football uniform.” 

By age 10, he was the only player on the sandlot with a full uniform, she told Hall of Fame Productions. 

Branch outran them all in track and on the football field at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He set an NCAA Championship Meet record in the 100 meters at 10 seconds. Although he did not have big receiving numbers on a run-dominant Buffalos team, his average of almost 18 yards per catch caught the eye of Raiders owner Al Davis, who was looking for a speedster to complement future Hall of Famers Fred Biletnikoff and Dave Casper.

Davis drafted Branch in the fourth round. His progress as a pro was slow in the beginning, however, with Biletnikoff noticing Branch was “not connected” to the ball because he was too eager to run with it. The two receivers spent one hour alone every day after practice, and it worked wonders for Branch’s development.

By his third season, Branch caught 60 passes for a league-best 1,092 yards and league-leading 13 touchdowns to help the Raiders reach the AFC Championship Game. 

Branch played for the Raiders his entire 14-year career, with Anderson attending every game.

So when the time came for Pro Football Hall of Fame President Jim Porter to make the call that Cliff was a Hall of Famer 30 months after his passing, it was to Elaine. The joy in her voice for her brother was palpable.

🎥 Watch Cliff Branch's Knock:

She was pleased to learn she would be joining other Class of 2022 members for activities during Super Bowl Week, including the “NFL Honors” show Thursday, the Merlin Olsen Super Bowl Luncheon on Friday and a special sit-down interview with Hall of Fame Productions on Saturday. 

When asked what she thought after the call, Anderson stared straight at the camera, tears welling.

“I said to Cliff, ‘Delayed, not denied. You are in. You are worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.’”

She went on about how Branch never let the disappointment of the long wait affect him.

“He told us to remain positive, and we did,” she said. “He always believed the time would come, and now the legacy of that Raiders’ 1970s team is complete, as is the family legacy and his legacy.”

Hall of Famer Forever.