LOUISVILE, Ky. (WDRB) — Twenty-two years after he first called the University of Louisville home, Deion Branch is back as the football team’s Director of Player Development.
Branch says his job is more than about developing young men as football players, it’s also about teaching them life skills.
“Whether it be a situation from helping these guys lining up something with a tailor, helping these guys lining up something like getting their vehicle fixed, getting a battery changed, changing their tires,” Branch said.
He says he never had someone connected to his junior college or UofL advise him in that capacity when he was a player.
“Back in the past, my teammates, and I had to learn these things on the fly. And it is what it is. And you know, I’m used to being in that position,” Branch said. “But these kids now get thrown so much stuff at him on a daily basis.”
Branch gives the players advice and has set the example about the importance of a degree.
The 2002 second round pick by the New England Patriots won two Super Bowl rings and a Super Bowl MVP, but never forgot about finishing up his degree, which he did in 2019 after retiring from the NFL in 2012.
“The fact that, you know, I was a little busy, but it wasn’t an excuse not to go back and finish it,” Branch said. “You get your degree. I think overall, from the point that I retired, and that has always been something that I was saying to myself that I have to go back and do.”
U of L is aiming to get more former athletes to follow in Branch’s footsteps. The school recently launched a fundraising initiative called The Cardinal Trust, which is designed to reward current student athletes for their academic progress, increase access to summer school, and fund a program for former players to get their degrees.
“Trust me, we have a great support staff. As far as our academic advisors, they do an amazing job over there, not only with the current players, but they’re always pushing back making those phone calls,” Branch said. “Calling to the former guys who have left here who haven’t finished and completed that degree. I was one of the guys.”
Branch is now one of the guys in the football office who may one day have a different office within a university.
“I think right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Branch said. “I think my wife and my kids have allowed me to come down, commute back and forth (from Indianapolis), to be here to establish myself within this role here now, who knows? Five (or) 10 years from now I may see myself as a coach, I may see myself as an AD…I can see myself as a president, who knows, it just all depends. I think right now I’m just relishing and enjoying this role right now.”
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