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

Elaine Anderson talks about her late brother joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s centennial class. Fight back tears. Two years later, he cried tears of joy as his brother, former Raiders receiver Cliff Branch, was named a member of the 2022 induction class.

Anderson, who will give his mother’s induction speech during Saturday’s ceremony, shared how he felt when he received the phone call his family had waited decades to receive. Branch, who died in 2019 at age 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 control myself and not cry, but I couldn’t help it. They were tears of joy. I was so emotional and so excited and happy for Clifford.

“I had really mixed emotions. It’s sad, because this is what Clifford always wanted, and now he’s not here for the grand ceremony that he’s been waiting for. So it was very emotional… but I Glad he’s in it now, and that’s the main thing.”

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

“I think he would have had mixed feelings,” she said. “I think he’s going to be laughing, excited, excited, but I also think he’s going to break down and cry tears of joy, like it’s finally happening. ”

Branch brought joy to millions of Raiders fans during his 14-year career. A member of the 1970s All-Decade Team, Branch led the NFL in receiving yards once and touchdown receptions on multiple occasions. His soft hands and blistering speed (Raiders fans appropriately put up “speed kills” signs with Branch’s number in the back of the end zone) caused headaches for even the best defenders. Especially Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback, Mel Blount.

“I had a chance to talk with Mel Blount. I said, ‘You know, I remember your name. There’s something about your name,'” Anderson recalled. “And then, I remember Clifford used to give him fits, and he used to give Clifford fits, but I’m so glad they reconciled.”

They may have made peace years later, but during the 1970s, there was no love lost between the Raiders and Steelers, who engaged in one of the most vicious rivalries in NFL history. After three gut-wrenching playoff losses to Pittsburgh, Branch and the Raiders defeated the two-time defending champion Steelers in the 1976 AFC Championship Game. For an encore, Oakland demolished 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 standout playoff performer, he caught two touchdown passes in Oakland’s 27–10 win over Philadelphia (coached by fellow 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Dick Wormell) 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) in the Raiders’ 38–9 rout of defending champion Washington. Got the score in the upset win.

“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 his involvement, 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 had many lasting impacts on pro football, died in 2011. Madden, whose illustrious coaching career was immortalized in Canton in 2006, died last December.

Although he won’t physically be in Canton Saturday, Anderson believes Branch and several other former offensive linemen will be there in spirit.

“Let me tell you, Clifford is going to be the front-and-center supervisor,” he said. “On the left will be Al Davis, on the right will be John Madden. I know they’ll both be with him. Maybe there’ll be a party and invite other people, but I know they’ll both be his. Will be together, 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 a teammate of the 1970s, was not inducted until his 27th year of eligibility.

Many other players and families are going through the same trying process as they wait 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 her family’s experience when her brother is in Canton. Waiting to find the right place.

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