From left to right in this picture from Sunday’s Alumni Homecoming Parade, that’s former offensive lineman Raleigh McKenzie, Zema “Chief Zee” Williams, and former running back/special teams ace Reggie Branch.
Branch is an interesting guy — a quick Google search reveals that his nickname as a special teams wedgebuster was Stone Head, and that he was at a Love Seed Mama Jump concert in Dewey Beach in 2004 where he “jump[ed] on stage and hop[ped] around on one leg to Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” according to the Washington City Paper.
Even his story of making the team is fairly interesting, as told to East Carolina University blog Pirate Time Machine back in 2005:
“I remember the first meeting I went to,” Branch said. “Coach (Joe) Gibbs said, ‘I want guys who work hard, want to be part of the team, and are productive on every Sunday.’ That’s what it came down to, production. I was like, ‘If that is what Coach Gibbs is looking for, that’s what I am all about. The guy I had to beat out was Otis Wonsley and he was one of the best special teams guy in the league. I knew I wasn’t going to run the ball for the Redskins. Otis would block on short yardage and goal line in the jumbo set. So when I got there, Coach Gibbs said, ‘You may never get the opportunity to play your position, but special teams is what I am looking for.’”
Branch took this advice to heart in the second preseason game.
“So, next game,” he explained, “I’m thinking, ‘I gotta do, what I gotta do ’cause I’m not about getting cut, here.’ So, I went out and did well and sure enough, Coach Gibbs mentioned me and the special teams coach mentioned my name and all of that. It felt good and it motivated me. The next week, we played Atlanta, and it came down to a big opportunity for me. I don’t know what it was but we were in the huddle and something told me to look into Atlanta’s huddle. Maybe it was ESP or something, but I just knew they were going to do a fake kick. I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to let anyone touch me. I’m going straight to the kicker on this one.’
“So, I went straight at the kicker and tackled him and that was the biggest part of my game right there. After that play, (the Redskins) turned me into the ‘wedge buster’ on kickoff team. So, I was like whatever it takes to be part of the team. Next thing you know, Jeff Bostic starts calling me Stone Head. It was like everyone started calling me that. I didn’t care about my body, I just wanted to do what it took for me to be on the team.”
Given all of that — the quirkiness and the reckless play — it probably comes as no surprise to hear that Branch isn’t wearing his old jersey in the picture above, he’s wearing a the late Sean Taylor’s number 21. Branch didn’t wear 21 at all — he wore 30 and 29 over his stints with the team. He didn’t know Taylor, and has no notable ties to him besides a shared birthstate of Florida.
So after the alumni photo was taken, I asked Branch what prompted him to wear the Taylor jersey.
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Tags: homecoming, redskins alumni, reggie branch, Sean Taylor
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