NFL Star Cliff Branch Dies at 71

By Victor Westerkamp

NFL Star and former wide receiver of the Oakland Raiders, Cliff Branch, was found dead in Bullhead City, Arizona, on Saturday, Aug. 3, just two days after his 71st birthday.

He died at approximately 3:40 p.m. of natural causes. He was found dead in his hotel room police said in a brief statement to Facebook. No foul play was suspected.

Branch was in town for a signing session.

“Cliff Branch touched the lives of generations of Raiders fans,” the team said in a statement on their website. “His loss leaves an eternal void for the Raiders Family, but his kindness and loving nature will be fondly remembered forever. Cliff’s on-field accomplishments are well documented and undeniably Hall of Fame worthy, but his friendship and smile are what the Raider Nation will always cherish.”

Branch, who was best known for his speed, was a deep threat for other team’s defenses and a key trump in the Raiders’ vertical playing style during those years. He played 14 seasons for the raiders from 1972 to 1985 and thrice won the Super Bowl.

In 1974, Branch led the NFL in both receiving yards (1,092) and receiving touchdowns (13). During his three Super Bowl appearances, Branch caught a combined 14 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.

Club owner Mark Davis and son of the former owner, Al Davis, said on Twitter, “Cliff was my best friend. I will miss him dearly.”

Davis and Branch were indeed very close, to the point that Davis became Branch’s sole agent.

“He only represented one person, and he did a hell of a job. He was able to hammer out a deal with his dad and got me a lifetime contract with the Raiders,” Branch said in a 2016 interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Thanks to Mark, I have a great life.”

The news came while The Pro Football Hall of Fame officially inducted eight new members into the Hall of Fame during a lengthy ceremony on Saturday night at Canton, Ohio.

Branch hadn’t made it yet to the Hall of Fame during his lifetime, although he was nominated in 2004 and 2010.

Former Raiders’ star Charles Woodson expressed his grief on Twitter: “In a time of celebration for fellow players being inducted into the pro football HOF I’m saddened to hear about the passing of cliff branch. Another great player that won’t be here to see himself inducted. Love you Cliff @Raiders.”

“Stay alive so you can enjoy going to the Hall of Fame,” his former coach John Madden once told Branch, “It’ll come.”

“All my peers that I played against and that are in the Hall of Fame, they tell me that I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame,” Branch said in an interview with the Raiders’ website. “It’s the crowning glory, just like getting a Super Bowl ring.”

The Hall Of Fame will induct a special class of 20 people next year, and no one doubts that Branch will finally be added to this illustrious list next to his clubmates Tim Brown and Fred Biletnikoff.