Frank (Set) Branham played halfback briefly for the Regina Roughriders in the 1954 season. He was cut at the import deadline, losing his job to fellow American Ken Carpenter, a former Cleveland Brown who had a no-cut clause in his contract.
Branham was invited to the camp of the Toronto Argonauts the next season, competing against Whizzer White, formerly of the Chicago Bears, but a knee injury suffered in a preseason scrimmage brought an end to his brief professional career. Branham had been one of 15 imports seeking 10 spots on the roster.
He was a three-sport star at Prestonsburg (Ky.) High, where he was an all-state athlete in football, basketball and baseball. He led the Black Cats high school team to many victories, including a dramatic win over the rival Pineville (Ky.) Mountain Lions in the inaugural Flood Bowl Classic in 1947. Branham led the come-from-behind win, the most dramatic points coming on an unexpected 29-yard field goal from a sharp angle — on a drop kick.
After graduating in 1949, Branham played halfback for the University of Utah. Early in his junior year, Branham walked off the team with a friend, spending a few miserable, penniless days in Tucson, Ariz., before the football coach dispatched a car to pick him up and bring him back to campus for his first square meal in several days.
The player explained the episode to sports columnist Hack Miller of the Deseret News in 1951. “Well, Mr. Miller, I got cold, hungry and broke. I called mama and she was disappointed in me. She wants me to finish my education at Utah. I have decided to come back and do it. I made a great mistaje when I walked off the football team.”
His coach, Jack Curtice, suspended him from the team. “Set’s a good lad and while i feel sorry fir him I feel most for his widowed mother who is working day and night to keep a family in Kentucky.”
Branham returned to the squad the following fall. In a game at Fort Collins, Colo., on Nov. 8, 1952, Branham took a punt from the Colorado A&M at his own 20 before racing 80 yards for the major. “Branham’s electrifying touchdown run clearly broke the back of the Rams,” reported the Salt Lake Tribune, “and they then would have had to score two touchdowns to win the game.” The Utes won, 14-6, and Branham went on to earn All-Skyline Conference honours. He left the school with a degree in physical education. At the time, he was the third highest scorer in Utes’ history.
Born in 1928, Franklin Delano Branham carried the same given names as Franklin D. Roosevelt, the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for vice-president eight years earlier who, two months after the boy’s birth, was elected governor of New York on his march to the presidency. Branham’s father, Lewis, died of tuberculosis in 1934. His widowed mother, Fanny, left Kentucky during the war to construct bombers in Detroit. His high school retired his No. 52 uniform in a ceremony in 2009.
He died in Utah of pancreatic cancer, aged 88. He leaves his wife, Judy; two children; and, two grandsons.