Cliff Branch’s sister to deliver Raiders legend Hall of Fame induction speech with ‘mixed emotions’
While discussing her late brother missing the cut for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial Class, Elaine Anderson. Two years later, she wept with joy when her brother, former Raiders catcher Cliff Branch, was named a member of the 2022 induction class.
Anderson, who will deliver his brother’s induction speech at Saturday’s ceremony, shared what it felt like to receive a phone call his family had waited 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 contain myself and not cry, but I just couldn’t help it. It was 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 this big event he was expecting. So it was very emotional…but I’m Glad he’s here now, and that’s the main thing.”
Anderson thinks his 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 had mixed emotions as well,” she said. “I think he would have laughed, optimistic, excited, but I also think he would have cracked up and cried tears of joy, like it was finally happening.”
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Branch has brought joy to millions of Raiders fans throughout his 14-year career. A member of the 1970s All-Decade Team, Branch led the NFL in receiving yards once and in touchdown receptions on several occasions. His soft hands and jaw-dropping speed (Raiders fans correctly placed “Speed Kills” signs with Branch’s number in the back of the end zone) created headaches even for top defensemen, especially Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount.
“I had the opportunity to speak with Mel Blount. I said, ‘You know, I remember your name. There’s something about your name,'” Anderson recalled. “And then I remembered that Clifford used to give her fits, and he used to give Clifford fits, but I’m so glad they made up.”
They may have made peace years later, but in the 1970s no love was lost between the Raiders and the Steelers, who engaged in one of the most vicious rivalries in history. of the NFL. After three heartbreaking playoff losses to Pittsburgh, Branch and the Raiders dethroned the two-time defending champion from the Steelers in the 1976 AFC Championship game. For an encore, Oakland demolished the Vikings to win the first Super Bowl of the franchise.
Branch played a key role on each of the Raiders’ three Super Bowl championship teams. A prolific playoff performer, 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, a 35-year-old branch caught six passes for 94 yards (including a 50-yard bomb that set up his touchdown reception) and a score in the Raiders’ upset 38-9 win over the champ title Washington.
“Coming back and looking at that footage, it’s amazing some of the balls he caught, some of the plays he made,” Anderson said. “It’s unbelievable, it’s almost unbelievable.”
With his induction, Branchin Canton, including his former coach, John Madden, and former Raiders owner, Al Davis. Davis, an innovator who had several lasting impacts on professional football, died in 2011. Madden, whose illustrious coaching career was immortalized in Canton in 2006, died last December.
Although they won’t be physically in Canton on Saturday, Anderson believes Branch and several other former Raiders will be there in spirit.
“Let me tell you, Clifford is going to be front and center,” she said. “On the left will be Al Davis, on the right will be John Madden. I know those two will be with him. There’s probably going to be a party and invite other people, but I know those two will be just next to him, no doubt.”
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 1970s All-Decade team, was not inducted until his 27th year of eligibility.
Many other players and families go through the same harrowing process of waiting for the call inviting them to football’s immortality. Anderson, who will officially end the wait for her sibling on Saturday, was asked to offer some advice to players and families who are currently going through what her family has been through while waiting for her sibling to receive his rightful spot 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.”