NAPA, Calif. — Former Raiders wide receiver great Cliff Branch died Saturday in Arizona. He was 71.
The Bullhead City (Arizona) Police Department posted on its Twitter account Saturday night that Branch was found dead at about 3:40 p.m. local time in a Bullhead City hotel room. An initial investigation determined that he died of natural causes.
On August 3, 2019 at approximately 3:40 p.m. Clifford Branch, former Oakland Raiders two-time Super Bowl champion, was found deceased in a hotel room in Bullhead City, Arizona
The initial investigation revealed no suspected foul play and that Mr. Branch died of natural causes. pic.twitter.com/8hDixDnPcN
— BHCPD (@BhcpdNews) August 4, 2019
Owner Mark Davis canceled plans to attend a Las Vegas function upon receiving the news. Branch, a three-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowler, spent his entire NFL career with the Raiders franchise from 1972 to 1985. Davis once served as his agent, negotiating a contract with father Al Davis on Branch’s behalf.
The two remained close.
“Cliff was my best friend, and I will miss him dearly,” Mark Davis told the Review-Journal in a text message.
The Raiders later released a statement.
“Cliff Branch touched the lives of generations of Raiders fans,” the club said. “His loss leaves an eternal void for the Raiders Family, but his kindness and loving nature will be fondly remembered forever. Cliff’s on-field accomplishments are well documented and undeniably Hall of Fame worthy, but his friendship and smile are what the Raider Nation will always cherish.”
Branch represented grace on and off the field.
Oakland selected the former Colorado receiver and sprinter in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL draft. He steadily developed as a reserve in his first two seasons, but his first career touchdown foreshadowed what was to come. On Oct. 14, 1972, he caught a 54-yard pass from Ken Stabler against the Chargers in San Diego.
A year later, he compiled his first of three straight seasons as a first-team All-Pro. Branch caught 60 passes in 1973 while leading the NFL with 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns. In 1975, he averaged a staggering 24.2 yards per reception, finishing with 46 catches, 1,111 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In 1983, at age 35, Branch caught a 99-yard touchdown from Jim Plunkett in a regular-season loss to the Washington Redskins. The Raiders avenged the defeat in Super Bowl XVIII, where Branch had six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Branch’s fingerprints are on all three of the franchise’s Lombardi Trophies.
He and Tom Flores widely are regarded as the Raiders’ greatest eligible contributors who aren’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Flores, a former Raiders quarterback, was Branch’s head coach from 1979 to 1985.