The core goal of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to celebrate those who most changed the game.
Thursday night, the museum got closer to meeting that ultimate goal with the election of Raiders’ legendary wide receiver Cliff Branch. Branch, who died in August, 2019 two days after his 71st birthday, was voted in by the hall of fame’s senior committee. The 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced as part of the NFL Honors show.
It had long been considered an omission that Branch was left out of the hall of fame for so long. He was one of the first true speed wide receivers in the NFL. He and the Raiders’ passing game changed how the defense played as his field-stretching ability had to be accounted for.
His stats stacked up well against several receivers in the Hall of Fame, including Lynn Swann and Drew Pearson. He had 501 passes for 8,685 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 67 touchdowns in his career that spanned from 1972-1985.
Branch, 5-11, 170 pounds, was drafted by fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Al Davis in 1972 in the fourth round out of Colorado. The Houston native played his entire 14-year NFL career with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. He was part of all three Raiders’ Super Bowl-winning teams.
And now his legacy goes to Canton.
In recent years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has done a decent job of catching up on inducting former Raiders as the likes of Ken Stabler, Ray Guy, Tim Brown and Tom Flores have been voted in — years after they should have made it. In the past two votes, Flores, Charles Woodson (on his first ballot) and now Branch have joined the rich Raiders’ Pro Football Hall of Fame contingent.
Defensive end Richard Seymour, who ended his career in the Silver and Black, will be joining Branch in this year’s hall of fame class as well.