Branch Looking Into New Route

Before enrolling at a four-year university, Tommy Branch will be forced to take a detour.

"I've always struggled in school and right now I'm struggling in a few courses," the 6-foot-1, 190-pound tailback said. "So right now, me, my dad, and my coaches are talking about prep school and junior colleges."

While it still remains to be seen if he will head the prep school or junior college route, Branch says there's a "100-percent" chance he will enroll somewhere after graduating from Wake Forest (N.C.) Wake Forest-Rolesville High School in a year and before enrolling at a four-year university.

"When I first heard about it, I wasn't too happy," Branch said. "But, after thinking about it maybe it's better from a physical and mental standpoint that I go somewhere first."

Only a junior, it may seem early for Branch to consider the possibility of not qualifying.

"We're trying to jump on it as soon as we can just to be on the safe side," Branch said. "We're hoping everything will come out on the good end and I won't have to do any of this stuff. So just in case, we just want to go ahead and talk to all the coaches."

Branch's head coach, Reggie Lucas, has already had several conversations with Louisburg Junior College regarding Branch's situation.

The coaches from North Carolina, the lone school to verbally offer him a scholarship, have provided Branch with a lot of guidance and answered all of his questions as he sorts through his options.

"I had called up there and I was talking to the coaches about how they want me to do it," Branch said. "On the junior day, I was told to bring my SAT [score] and my transcript up there. They looked at it and they told me I still have enough time to bring my grades up. But they were like ‘Just in case, look into Hargrave Military Academy or Louisburg Junior College.'"

Branch has made no secret about UNC being his clear-cut leader since last football season. Its staff's willingness to help him has only strengthened those feelings.

"Most definitely, they're still my leader," Branch said. "I'm not going to change that because I've always liked them and of the respect that they give me and how they're going to stick behind me with the injuries and my academic problems. You're not going to find too many programs that are going to stick beside you like that."

During his prep career, Branch has endured two injuries to the same knee with the most recent being an ACL tear last football season.

"Everything with my knee is coming great," Branch said. "I go back to the doctor in three more weeks and start cutting and stuff. Right now, it's getting stronger. I'm just building it up. From my experiences from my first knee injury, I think my knee is healing a whole lot better."

Branch expects his knee to be 100-percent healed by June or July. Although he'll be healed in time to participate in college camps, there's some hesitation in doing so.

"I'm looking into [camps], but right now my dad doesn't really want me to go to any camps," Branch said. "We're talking to my doctors to see what my doctors have to say about it. My dad doesn't want me to tweak my knee during a camp by doing all that cutting."

If Branch does participate in camps, likely destinations include Maryland and UNC.

Regardless, Branch said he will at least take visits to Maryland and Tennessee this spring, as well as return to UNC.

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