Cliff Branch died unexpectedly Saturday night, leaving the Raiders' organization shocked and in mourning. He was 71 years old.
Branch passed away the same night that this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class was giving induction speeches, leaving Raiders faithful hurt and upset that Branch wasn't enshrined before his passing.
He's certainly deserving, with three Super Bowl championships, three All-Pro selections and four Super Bowls. He changed the game during a 14-year career spent entirely with the Raiders, and stands as one of the NFL's greatest deep-threat receivers of any era.
Branch wasn't shy about his desire to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite several frustrating years being left out, and during a 2017 appearance on the Raiders Insider Podcast, he relayed some advice that John Madden had given him.
Branch's quote is heartbreaking in retrospect, considering his passing and the great odds that he'll be included in next year's expanded Hall of Fame class, which includes 10 senior nominees.
Here's the excerpt on the Hall of Fame and Madden's advice, as written in a story accompanying the podcast:
"It's going to happen," Branch said. "I was really close this year in the senior committee. When [former Raiders offensive lineman] Art Shell went in to represent me, it came down to [Brazile, Kramer] and myself. It was a three-way tie, but the committee chose those guys over me. I'm real close. I'm looking at 2019 like it could be my year."
Branch remains confident, even after being overlooked so many times as a modern-era candidate. He's holding strong based on advice John Madden, his first NFL head coach, gave him during the long wait.
"Coach Madden told me that it's going to happen. He said to stay patient and stay alive," said Branch, who, it should be noted, is in terrific health. "He said, ‘When it does come, and they call your name for the Hall of Fame, make sure you're there to reap all the benefits.' I told him, ‘I am not dying until I get in the Hall of Fame.' Once I get the call, get that gold jacket and that ring, I could die the next day. But I'm going to stay alive for that deserving honor to come my way."
Branch won't be around for his induction if it indeed comes, though the Raiders certainly will celebrate that moment, his life and accomplishments in style.