Legendary former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch died Saturday.
He was 71.
His cause of death was not immediately known, and the Raiders confirmed his passing in a tweet from owner Mark Davis.
"Cliff Was My Best Friend.. I Will Miss Him Dearly"— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 4, 2019
“Cliff Branch touched the lives of generations of Raiders fans," the team said in a statement. "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 was one of the NFL’s most dynamic receiving threats, and he spent his entire career with the Silver and Black. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and a three-time All-Pro, and Branch also played in four Pro Bowls.
He finished an illustrious career with 501 receptions for 8,655 yards and 67 touchdowns, averaging an astonishing 17.3 yards per catch. Many consider his career worthy of induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Branch was an energetic fun-loving personality who always was a fan favorite. He remained active with the Raiders after retiring in 1985, and developed an extremely close bond with Davis.
He was beloved among Raiders alumni, frequently at evens bridging former Raiders from different generations.
In a time of celebration for fellow players being inducted into the pro football HOF I’m saddened to hear about the passing of cliff branch. Another great player that won’t be here to see himself inducted. Love you Cliff @Raiders— Charles Woodson (@CharlesWoodson) August 4, 2019
The Raiders planned to use him prominently in their transition to Las Vegas relocation in 2020, as an ambassador of the team's brand.
That was fitting, considering he was a constant during a Raiders golen era. He was vital to all three Super Bowl championships, quickly becoming a dominant vertical threat after then owner Al Davis drafted him in the fourth round of the 1972 NFL draft. The University of Colorado was a top track athlete in the 100 and 200 meters. He chose football instead, and used his signature speed to become a dominant deep threat cornerbacks couldn't cover down the field. He led the NFL with 1,092 yards and 13 touchdowns in 1974, the first of three straight All-Pro seasons.
He remained a Raider his entire career, once averaging 24.2 yards per reception. He was always awesome in the playoffs, and remained a productive player at all times into his late 30s.