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Cliff Branch named as a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist

The late wide receiver aims to be the first CU alumni enshrined in Canton

Oakland Raiders v New York Jets Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

After decades of being snubbed, Cliff Branch’s accomplishments in the game of football might be recognized. The late three-time Super Bowl winner was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s special centennial class on Wednesday.

The Hall’s President and CEO David Baker announced the addition of 15 Hall of Famers to next year’s class back in August. A group consisting of ten senior players, who haven’t played in 25 years, along with three contributors and two coaches. Branch is one of 20 players named as a finalist. Broncos LB Randy Gradishar was the only other player with ties to Colorado on the list. Former coach Dan Reeves was also named as a finalist.

Branch passed away at the age of 71 over the same weekend as this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony in August. The speedster receiver from Houston, TX complied a 14-year career in the NFL including wins in Super Bowl XI, Super Bowl XV and Super Bowl XVIII for the Raiders. A four-time pro bowler, who led the league in receiving in 1974 with 1,092 yards (18.2 Avg.) and 13 touchdowns.

Back in August, I asked NFL Hall of Famer Gil Brandt if Branch should receive consideration in the special 2020 class. He replied very positively about Cliff’s chances, despite saying “When he came out of Colorado, he could run but couldn’t catch a cold.” Brandt credits former Raiders owner Al Davis with making Branch a “big play” receiver.

According to the NFL, the finalists will be deliberated by the Blue-Ribbon Panel next month. Here are the 38 names to make the cut for the Centennial Class.

COACHES (8 FINALISTS) - Coaches who last coached more than five seasons ago

Don Coryell - 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers

Bill Cowher - 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers

Tom Flores - 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks

Mike Holmgren - 1992-98 Green Bay Packers, 1999-2008 Seattle Seahawks

Jimmy Johnson - 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins

Buddy Parker - 1949 Chicago Cardinals, 1951-56 Detroit Lions, 1957-1964 Pittsburgh Steelers

Dan Reeves - 1981-1992 Denver Broncos, 1993-96 New York Giants, 1997-2003 Atlanta Falcons

Dick Vermeil - 1976-1982 Philadelphia Eagles, 1997-99 St. Louis Rams, 2001-05 Kansas City Chiefs

CONTRIBUTORS (10 FINALISTS) - An individual other than a player or coach

Bud Adams, Owner - 1960-2013 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Titans

Ralph Hay, Owner - 1918-1922 Canton Bulldogs

Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Scout/General Manager/Executive - 1960-61 Philadelphia Eagles, 1962-64 Washington Redskins, 1965-1970 Dallas Cowboys, 1971-2006 New England Patriots

Art McNally, Official/Administrator - 1959-2015 National Football League

Art Modell, Owner - 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens

Clint Murchison, Founder/Owner - 1960-1983 Dallas Cowboys

Steve Sabol, Administrator/President - 1964-2012 NFL Films

Seymour Siwoff, Owner/President - 1952-2019 Elias Sports Bureau

Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League

George Young, Contributor/General Manager - 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League

SENIORS (20 FINALISTS) - A player who last played more than 25 seasons ago

Cliff Branch, WR - 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders

Harold Carmichael, WR - 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys

Jim Covert, T - 1983-1990 Chicago Bears

Roger Craig, RB - 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings

Bobby Dillon, S - 1952-59 Green Bay Packers

LaVern Dilweg, E - 1926 Milwaukee Badgers, 1927-1934 Green Bay Packers

Ox Emerson, G/LB/C - 1931-37 Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions, 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers

Randy Gradishar, LB - 1974-1983 Denver Broncos

Cliff Harris, S - 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys

Winston Hill, T - 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams

Cecil Isbell, TB/DB/HB - 1938-1942 Green Bay Packers

Alex Karras, DT - 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions

Verne Lewellen, HB - 1924-27, 1928-1932 Green Bay Packers, 1927 New York Yankees

Tommy Nobis, LB - 1966-1976 Atlanta Falcons

Drew Pearson, WR - 1973-1983 Dallas Cowboys

Donnie Shell, S - 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers

Duke Slater, T - 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals

Mac Speedie, E - 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns [AAFC/NFL]

Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E - 1944-1955 Chicago Bears

Al Wistert, OT/DT/G - 1943 Phil-Pitt, 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles