Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver and track star Cliff Branch passed away Saturday at the age of 71.
Branch played two years at Colorado and finished with 36 receptions for 665 yards and eight touchdowns (3 receiving, 5 rushing). He also combined for eight touchdowns on punt and kick returns, an NCAA record at the time.
In addition to his prowess on the gridiron, Branch was an elite sprinter on the track where he set a number of school records. His 10.0 second 100-meter dash at the 1972 NCAA Outdoor Championships remains the school record to this day.
After wrapping up his career in Boulder, Branch was selected in the fourth round (98th overall) of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. In 14 seasons, all with the Raiders, he played in 183 games, caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. He won three Super Bowl rings (1976, ’80 and ’83) with the Raiders and was a four-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.
Branch left a huge impact on those around him and they have mourned his passing:
I send out this tweet with a heavy heart. Cliff Branch was idolized and loved. Every time I would see Cliff the first words out of his mouth was #shouldertoshoulder #RIP GREAT ONE. pic.twitter.com/hsLLAJN60j— Mike Pritchard (@mipritchard) August 4, 2019
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— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) August 4, 2019
My dad started taking me to CU games in the early ‘80s and I’ve worked for athletics since ‘94, researching and digging through Buffs history.— Curtis Snyder (@CurtisCSnyder) August 4, 2019
Cliff Branch is at the top of the list of players I’d most loved to have seen play football or run track. #RIP pic.twitter.com/KJ0ghyM2eR
Longtime #cubuffs administrator Fred Casotti once wrote of Cliff Branch: “He made some of the most exciting runs I’ve ever seen. Literally, breathtaking. I’ve never seen a player who could bring the entire Colorado cheering section to its feet by just fielding a punt.”— Brian Howell (@BrianHowell33) August 4, 2019
If you have any thoughts or memories about Cliff, feel free to share.