By LARRY VAUGHT
Since he grew up up in Columbus, Ohio, Kalil Branham’s dream was to play football in the Big Ten and he originally committed to Michigan. However, he later had a change of heart and the talented receiver signed with Kentucky.
“I felt like I could play really anywhere (in the country) and I felt like this was the place I needed to be,” Branham, who enrolled at UK in January, said. “I had heard about UK from other guys they were recruiting in Ohio but I was just kind of focused on what I needed to better myself to get to where I should be.
“Once I decided it was not Michigan, the UK coaches started talking to me and I could tell they really cared about me and wanted the best out of me. As soon as I stepped on campus, it felt like home. It just felt like family with all the love and some place that I had to be.”
He was rated a top 500 national recruit by 247Sports and as the 10th best player in Ohio — and he even played quarterback as a junior out of necessity when injuries hit. That’s the same scenario that shifted Lynn Bowden from receiver to quarterback for UK last year when the Cats turned exclusively into a running team.
“They did have a great quarterback (Terry Wilson) who did go down and knowing he would hopefully be playing the next year made me not worry about the offense and this is a place where I could show what I have got skill-wise,” Branham said. “I know they have great quarterbacks here and they ran the offense they did last year because that’s what it took to win.
“But since I played quarterback in high school as well, I felt if that happened again (with injuries) I could be in the place Lynn was in and try to do what he did. I have been out with quarterbacks here. We go out every Saturday and throw. Everybody is looking real good right now. I am not worried about us being able to throw the ball a lot next season.”
Branham is an exceptional athlete who lettered in four sports — football, basketball, baseball and track —at Northland High School in Columbus. He was a state champion in the 200-meter dash
“I would say my two favorite sports would be baseball and football. I was a center fielder, pitcher and shortstop in baseball. I had a .457 batting average and considered myself a good hitter,” he said.
He says skills from all those sports help make him a good receiver.
“My physicalness, my speed, all of that makes me a great all-around receiver,” he said.
His first love actually was lacrosse, or maybe boxing. He played lacrosse before football and then did both from fourth grade through seventh grade.
“Lacrosse is just like football. I loved the contact,” he said. “Somebody is coming down with the stick and you could just hit ‘em. That’s what I enjoyed.”
What about boxing?
“I did box for the same reason. We have a heavy bag in the student center (at UK) that I will go to probably once a week just to stay sharp,” he said.