Cliff Branch’s sister to deliver late Raiders legend’s Hall of Fame speech with ‘mixed emotions’

When discussing her late brother’s failure to be inducted into the Centennial Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Elaine Anderson fight back your tears. Two years later, she cried tears of joy when her brother, former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch, was named a member of the 2022 induction class.

Anderson, who will deliver her partner’s acceptance speech during Saturday’s ceremony, shared what it felt like to receive the phone call her family had been waiting decades to receive. Branch, who died in 2019 at the age of 71, had been eligible for induction since 1991. Branch was eventually selected as a senior inductee, which is reserved for players who played at least 25 years ago.

“I was very emotional,” Anderson told CBS Sports shortly after arriving in Canton, Ohio. “I tried to hold back and not cry, but I just couldn’t help it. They were tears of joy. I was very emotional and very excited and happy for Clifford.

“I really had mixed emotions. Sad because that’s what Clifford always wanted, and now he’s not here for that grand event he longed for. So it was very emotional … but I’m glad he’s here now and that’s the main thing.”

Anderson thinks her brother would have had a similar reaction if he had gotten the call from Hall of Fame president Jim Porter.

“I think he would have mixed emotions too,” she said. “I think he would have been laughing, upbeat, excited, but I also think he would have broken down and cried tears of joy like it was finally happening.”

Branch brought joy to millions of Raiders fans throughout his 14-year career. A member of the All-Decade Team since the 1970s, Branch led the NFL in receiving yards once and in receiving touchdowns multiple times. His soft hands and breathtaking speed (Raiders fans appropriately posted “Speed ​​Kills” signs with Branch’s number in the back of the end zone) created headaches for even the best defenders, particularly the Steelers’ Hall of Fame corner , Mel Blount.

“I had a chance to talk to Mel Blount. I said, “You know, I remember your name. There’s something about your name,’” Anderson recalled. “And then I remembered that Clifford was giving him fits, and he was having Clifford fits, but I’m so happy they made up.”

They may have made peace years later, but there was no love lost in the 1970s between the Raiders and Steelers, who engaged in one of the fiercest rivalries in NFL history. After three previous crushing playoff losses to Pittsburgh, Branch and the Raiders dethroned the two-time defending champion Steelers in the 1976 AFC Championship Game. In the encore, Oakland routed the Vikings to win the franchise’s first Super Bowl.

Branch played a key role on each of the Raiders’ three Super Bowl championship teams. A prolific player in the playoffs, he caught two touchdown passes in Oakland’s 27-10 win over Philadelphia (coached by fellow 2020 Hall of Famer Dick Vermeil) in Super Bowl XV. In Super Bowl XVIII, Branch, 35, caught six passes for 94 yards (which included a 50-yard bomb that set up his touchdown reception) and a score in the Raiders’ 38-9 victory over defending champion Washington.

“Going back and watching that footage, it’s amazing some of the balls he caught, some of the plays he made,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing, it’s almost unbelievable.

With your introduction, Branch will join several former Raiders from the team’s championship era in Canton, including his former coach John Madden and former Raiders owner Al Davis. Davis, an innovator who made several lasting impacts on pro football, died in 2011. Maddon, whose illustrious coaching career was immortalized in Canton in 2006, died last December.

Although they won’t physically be in Canton on Saturday, Anderson believes Branch and several other former Raiders will be there in spirit.

“Let me tell you, Clifford will be watching front and center,” she said. “On the left will be Al Davis, on the right will be John Madden. I know these two will be with him. There will probably be a party and we’ll invite other people, but I know these two will be right next to it, no question.”

Like Branch, former Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, a year after his death. Stabler, despite being another member of the all-decade team since the 1970s, was not inducted until his 27th year of eligibility.

Many other players and families go through the same difficult process of waiting for the call that invites them to football immortality. Anderson, who will officially end her brother’s wait on Saturday, was asked to offer advice to players and families currently going through what her family went through while waiting for her brother to get his rightful place in Canton.

“When it’s not your turn, you can’t force it,” she said. “When it’s your turn, you can’t stop it.”

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