Last fall things didn't go exactly as Tommy Branch hoped they would.
The 6-1, 190-pound running back had transferred from Southeast Raleigh to Wake Forest-Rolesville. He was still adjusting to his new environment and learning to fit into a new offense when he suffered a huge setback.
During Wake Forest-Rolesville's homecoming game Branch was caught up in a pile and tore his ACL. That was about halfway through his season. It was his second ACL injury, so needless to say it was a frustrating experience. Branch has remained focused on his goal of playing college football and has been fighting his way back.
"I think I'm coming back real strong," Branch explained recently. "I feel a whole lot better. I'm a lot stronger than I was. I'm building the definition up in my legs."
North Carolina had verbally offered Branch at the beginning of his sophomore season but the Tar Heels have since backed off.
"I've had it (the UNC offer) for a while now," he recalled. "I haven't really been talking to them like I used to. I haven't really had contact with the coaches.
"I think they're going to be in the mix but I'm not as high on them like I was before. They're kind of in the middle with everybody else. My eyes are just open to different schools."
One of the schools Branch is now taking a hard look at is NC State. While the Pack hasn't offered him a scholarship, Tom O'Brien's staff have made it known that they're interested and will be monitoring his progress.
"I started getting interested in them when they called up to my school and invited me to spring practice," Branch said of NC State. "When I went there and saw that atmosphere, I liked it. I liked how the coaches and players were so motivated to practice.
"I talked to the coaches and they all seemed real interested. They said I could come back and see them any time I wanted. I felt real comfortable being there."
If State were to offer they would be in an excellent position.
"I wouldn't say they'd be at the top but I would be really happy if they would offer me," Branch said. "Everobody's just waiting to see how I come back from the injury."
Branch projects as a running back at the college level. He's hoping to stay healthy as a senior at Wake Forest-Rolesville. If he can do that, he just might be one of the surprise prospects in North Carolina this fall.
Clemson, Maryland and Tennessee are three of the other schools expressing interest in Branch.
Local RB Working His Way Back
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