Former CU Buffs and Raiders speedster Cliff Branch was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the senior candidate on Thursday.
Branch starred at Colorado as a receiver and also a track athlete.
A first-team All-American by the Football News as a senior in 1971 (honorable mention by the Associated Press), he was the recipient of the Zack Jordan Award as CU’s most valuable player that season. He played a pivotal role in the team’s 10-2 record, which including road wins at LSU and Ohio State in the first three weeks of the year, in which after the bowl games, the Buffaloes finished as the nation’s No. 3 team, behind conference rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma.
Branch scored touchdowns via receiving, rushing, punt return and kickoff return (16 total) over his two-year career in Boulder (1970-71). In 22 games, he had 141 touches for 2,507 yards, or 17.8 yards per play. He caught 36 passes for 665 yards (18.5 per), while averaging 11.4 yards for 31 rushes, 16.7 yards for 44 punt returns and 25.2 yards for 30 kickoff returns. He had four scores by kick returns in both 1970 and 1971 and still CU records, as are his six career punt return touchdowns.
The Oakland Raiders drafted him in the fourth round of the 1972 National Football League draft (98th pick overall).
Branch epitomized what late Raiders owner Al Davis sought in a wide receiver with his blazing speed providing the vertical threat that helped the Raiders win three titles in an eight-year span in the 1970s and ’80s.
Branch, who died in 2019, is the ninth player from the Raiders’ first title team in 1976 to get voted into the Hall, along with Davis, coach John Madden and assistant coach Tom Flores.
— Associated Press contributed to this report