|No. 21, 22|
|Born:||August 1, 1948|
|Died:||August 3, 2019 71) (aged|
Bullhead City, Arizona
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||170 lb (77 kg)|
|High school:||Worthing (Houston, Texas)|
|NFL Draft:||1972 / Round: 4 / Pick: 98|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at NFL.com|
Clifford Branch Jr. (August 1, 1948 – August 3, 2019) was an American professional football player who was a wide receiver with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders during his entire 14-year National Football League (NFL) career. He won three NFL championships with the Raiders in Super Bowl XI, XV and XVIII. He was selected by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL Draft after playing college football for the Colorado Buffaloes. He was posthumously elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022.
Branch attended college at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he was a sprinter on the track team and a receiver on the football team.In football with the Buffaloes in 1970, he caught 23 passes for 355 yards, had 22 carries for 119 yards and one touchdown. In 1971, he had 13 catches for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 9 carries for 235 yards and 4 touchdowns.
In track, Branch set an NCAA championship meet record in the 100 meters with a time of 10.0 seconds at the 1972 NCAA championships semifinal in Eugene, Oregon. Branch placed 5th in the final with 10.1, and he said "My goal has always been to win the NCAA 100 meter championship. This is my last track meet, since I expect to sign a pro contract with the Oakland Raiders within the next two weeks."He also posted a personal best of 20.5 seconds in the 200 meters. He graduated from Colorado in 1972.
|100 meters||10.0||Eugene, Oregon||June 2, 1972|
|200 meters||20.5||Boulder, Colorado||April 7, 1971|
Branch was selected in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL Draft with the 98th overall pick by the Oakland Raiders. He spent his entire 14-year NFL career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, winning three Super Bowl rings in Super Bowl XI, Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII.
Branch had a slow start to his career, as his 1972 season consisted of one start in 14 games with three combined catches for 41 yards. 1973 was slightly better, as he caught 19 catches for 290 yards in total for three touchdowns. In the October 14 game against the San Diego Chargers, he caught his first touchdown pass, doing so on a pass from Ken Stabler in the 27–17 win.His third season proved his moment. He caught 60 passes for 13 touchdowns and 1,092 yards (the former two were career highs). He went to the Pro Bowl while also being named First-team All-Pro, owing to him leading the league in yards, touchdowns, and yards per game as a receiver. In the postseason, he had his best game for the AFC Championship, where he caught nine passes for 186 yards and a touchdown, but the Raiders lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24–13. In his 22 games as a receiver in the postseason, it was the first of three 100-yard games and it was the most catches he had in said game.
Branch would have a four-year peak that resulted in Pro Bowl (four) and All-Pro selections (three), with the 1976 season resulting in a career high 1,111 yards to go with 12 touchdowns on 46 catches. That year, the Raiders won their first championship, and Branch caught nine combined passes in three games for under 50 yards each, but they still prevailed in the Super Bowl regardless.In his final season of play with the Raiders in 1985, his season ended prematurely when he was placed on the injured reserve list. In 1986, he again landed on the reserve list after suffering a pulled hamstring during the preseason.
After having caught 212 passes for 3,967 yards and 43 touchdowns in his first six years, Branch played the remaining eight seasons with steady but eventual decline. He caught at least 27 passes in seven of those years for at least 400 yards, with the 1980 season (44 catches, 858 yards, 7 touchdowns) being his last hit year.
On October 2, 1983, Branch caught the longest pass by a Raider, as he caught a 99-yard pass from Jim Plunkett in the second quarter versus the Washington Redskins . It was his only catch in the 37–35 loss, but he remains the only Raider to catch a 99-yard pass.
He had his last gasp of playoff play with the 1983 matchup against Pittsburgh, where he caught six passes for 76 yards in the 38–10 win (Branch did not make any catches in his true last playoff game, a 13–7 loss to Seattle on December 22).Branch finished his NFL career with 501 receptions for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. In 20 playoff contests, he compiled 73 receptions for 1,289 yards, an average of 17.7 yards per catch, and five touchdowns. He held the NFL career playoff records for receptions and receiving yards, which stood until they were broken by Jerry Rice in 1993 and 1994, respectively, while with the San Francisco 49ers. Among his individual accolades were being selected to four consecutive Pro Bowl teams (1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977), and three times being selected as a first-team All-Pro (1974, 1975, 1976). In addition, he led the NFL in receiving yards once (1974) and receiving touchdowns twice (1974, 1976).
Branch played for the Los Angeles Cobras of the Arena Football League in 1988, their only season of existence.
He was cited by the NFL Network as #5 on players not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, noted for his speed at the position of wide receiver while being overshadowed by receivers of his time like Pittsburgh rivals Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and teammate Fred Biletnikoff. Minus Swann (whose numbers were considerably lower), Branch had comparable statistics to each of those players as each have over 500 receptions and 8,000 yards.
He was a nominee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was a semifinalist in 2004 and 2010. In 2011, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Branch to the PFRA Hall of Very Good Class of 2011.
On August 24, 2021, Branch was posthumously selected as the seniors finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022. On February 10, 2022, he was selected for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Branch died on August 3, 2019, two days after his 71st birthday.His body was found in a hotel room in Bullhead City, Arizona. According to police his death was due to natural causes, based on an initial investigative report.
Super Bowl XI was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Oakland Raiders and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Minnesota Vikings to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for its 1976 season. The Raiders defeated the Vikings by the score of 32–14 to win their first Super Bowl. The game was played on January 9, 1977, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This remains the Super Bowl scheduled earliest during the calendar year.
Super Bowl XV was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Oakland Raiders and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Philadelphia Eagles to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1980 season. The Raiders defeated the Eagles by the score of 27–10, becoming the first wild card playoff team to win a Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XVIII was an American football game played on January 22, 1984, at Tampa Stadium between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion and defending Super Bowl XVII champion Washington Redskins and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Los Angeles Raiders to determine the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1983 season. The Raiders defeated the Redskins, 38–9. The Raiders' 38 points scored and 29-point margin of victory broke Super Bowl records; it remains the most points scored by an AFC team in a Super Bowl. This is the first time the city of Tampa hosted the Super Bowl and was the AFC's last Super Bowl win until Super Bowl XXXII, won by the Denver Broncos.
Super Bowl XXXVII was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Oakland Raiders and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2002 season. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders by the score of 48–21, tied with Super Bowl XXXV for the seventh largest Super Bowl margin of victory, winning their first-ever Super Bowl. The game, played on January 26, 2003, at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, was the sixth Super Bowl to be held a week after the conference championship games. It was also the last Super Bowl played in January. Prior to Super Bowl LVI, this was the last Super Bowl to have been played in Southern California, and it was also the last-ever Super Bowl played in the San Diego area as of the 2021 NFL season, as the San Diego Chargers would later move to Los Angeles in 2017, leaving San Diego with no NFL-based team, meaning the Super Bowl can no longer be hosted there. Qualcomm Stadium would be demolished a few years after the Chargers moved, with the last structure being taken down in March 2021.
Donald Rogers Maynard was an American professional football player who was a wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) with the New York Giants and St. Louis Cardinals; the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) with the New York Jets; and the World Football League (WFL) with the Shreveport Steamer.
Jerry Lee Rice is an American former professional football wide receiver who played in the National Football League (NFL) for 20 seasons. He won three championships with the San Francisco 49ers, along with playing for the Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, and Denver Broncos. Nicknamed "World" because of his superb catching ability, his accomplishments and numerous records, led him to be widely regarded as the greatest wide receiver in NFL history, and one of the greatest players of all time. His biography on the official Pro Football Hall of Fame website names him: "the most prolific wide receiver in NFL history with staggering career totals". In 1999, The Sporting News listed Rice second behind Jim Brown on its list of "Football's 100 Greatest Players". In 2010, he was chosen by NFL Network's NFL Films production The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players as the greatest player in NFL history.
Frederick S. Biletnikoff is a former gridiron football player and coach. He was a wide receiver for the Oakland Raiders in the American Football League (AFL) and National Football League (NFL) for fourteen seasons and later an assistant coach with the team. He retired as an NFL player after the 1978 season, and then played one additional season in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Montreal Alouettes in 1980. While he lacked the breakaway speed to be a deep-play threat, Biletnikoff was one of the most sure-handed and consistent receivers of his day, with a propensity for making spectacular catches. He was also known for running smooth, precise pass routes. He is a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1988) and College Football Hall of Fame (1991).
Paul Dryden Warfield is an American former professional football player who was a wide receiver in the National Football League (NFL) from 1964 to 1977 for the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, except for a year in the World Football League (WFL) with the Memphis Southmen. He was known for his speed, fluid moves, grace, and jumping ability. A consistent big-play threat throughout his career, his 20.1 average yards per reception is the highest in NFL history among players with at least 300 receptions.
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Ja'Marr Anthony Chase is an American football wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at LSU, where he won the Fred Biletnikoff Award and the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship as a sophomore. Selected fifth overall by the Bengals in the 2021 NFL Draft, Chase was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after setting rookie records for single-year and single-game receiving yards en route to an appearance in Super Bowl LVI.
He overtook Cliff Branch, formerly of the Raiders, who had 73 receptions in the postseason.
Rice also holds the career playoff receiving record with 78 catches and needs 67 yards (1,223 postseason) to surpass Cliff Branch (1,289) as the NFL's all-time leader.
San Francisco's Jerry Rice is the all-time leader with 1,306.