Oakland Raiders safety
In addition to ably handling his starting strong safety duties in 2009, Branch has also been one of the NFL’s most productive special teams performers while operating as a gunner on punts and kickoffs.
"It’s a great accomplishment. It’s a great feeling. I feel privileged that my teammates voted me for this award. I would have never thought that I would get recognized for this award," Branch said. "I have positive people around me. I have a great family that kept me playing inspired. They were in my corner and on my side so it was easy for me to bounce back."
Branch was originally selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of the University of Connecticut. He injured his hand in training camp and hurt his shoulder during the eighth game of the 2008 season while returning a kickoff. Prior to the shoulder injury, Branch had logged 10 tackles and his first career interception and showed promise as a kick returner.
The Ed Block Courage Award annually honors one player from each NFL team who exemplifies commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage. The award has become one of the most esteemed honors bestowed upon a player in the NFL, primarily because his selection is based upon a vote of his peers.
Additionally, the award recognizes a player’s efforts on and off the field, as well as their ability to overcome great adversity.
The Ed Block Courage Award is named in honor of Ed Block, the longtime head athletic trainer of the Baltimore Colts who was a pioneer in his profession and a respected humanitarian. In 1989, the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation formulated the Courage House National Support Network for Kids. The Fred Finch Youth Center is the Raiders Courage House.