A top 25 wide receiver in America has spent quite a bit of time in Lexington over the last month. Each time he’s returned home to Columbus, Ohio, he’s left impressed.
“I like everything about UK, the facilities, dorms, the people, fans. I like everything,” Kalil Branham told KSR Monday evening.
A four-star prospect ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 22 wide receiver in America, Branham first entered the BBN’s radar at the Blue/White Game. Not long after Branham watched the exhibition from the Kroger Field stands, the Michigan commit reopened his recruitment. Three weeks later he returned to Lexington for an official visit.
“It was nice,” he said. “It really opened my eyes to how nice the school is and what’s around it. We went through the whole school facilities and we got to eat at some of the finest restaurants there, like Tony’s, KSBar and Jeff Ruby’s.”
KSBar is in good company.
At one stop Branham ran into Tim Couch, also known as “the guy on the wall.”
That wasn’t the only big Kentucky football name to share a moment with Branham. Josh Allen posed for a picture with the four-star athlete just a week after he was drafted seventh overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Primarily recruited by Vince Marrow and wide receivers coach Michael Smith, their pitch to Branham is simple.
“They’re saying that I’m going to come in and replace Lynn Bowden. I’ll be the No. 1 guy. They say I’m a five-star recruit in their eyes.”
If Kentucky can convince Branham to commit to the Cats, the 2020 class will have an incredibly fast, hard-working athlete whose stock continues to rise. A few more things you should know about Branham and his relationship with UK:
Allen and Young are in Touch
Once they committed to Kentucky, John Young and Beau Allen vowed they would be two of UK’s staunchest recruiters. So far, they’re living up to that promise.
“I talk to John Young and Beau Allen a lot.” Branham has never thrown around the pigskin with Allen but, “His film is very nice. I think we could work together good.”
You People are Crazy
During Branham’s visits to Lexington, fans are making the most significant impressions. The Big Blue Nation is unlike any other fanbase, for better or worse.
“The fans are — they’re huggers. I’m not used to that, but I like it though.”
I don’t know how well hugs from strangers will go over with every recruit, but it isn’t scaring off Branham.
Not a One-Trick Pony
When he isn’t running through ladders or catching balls from the gun on the football field, Branham picks up the boxing gloves.
“It’s a training thing. I always kind of liked boxing. I figured it could make my hands quicker and my reactions, so I just kind of got into it.”
He’s never stepped into a ring for a formal fight, exclusively using pads and light sparring, but I would not mess with this man.
It aint grinding if you love it. while you at somebody's draft party watching their dreams come true . We with Coach Ron AKA The Champ working on quick hands
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 26, 2019
Outside of boxing, Branham’s first love was lacrosse. As a high school freshman he lettered in football, baseball, basketball and track and field, a sport where he continues to completely crush the competition. Branham won the 2017 200m Ohio state championship and it wasn’t even close. In the following relay, his team was in dead last until he took over for the final leg. Watching him catch up with the competition is absolutely incredible.
Never question my effort or desire to win. im not a Ra Ra guy never have been. Dont take my quietness as a weakness. Its just why talk trash if you cant finish. #branhamboys pic.twitter.com/A2n81VBx0g
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 16, 2019
He’s not just an athlete. Branham’s mind is incredibly sharp. To exercise his artistic side he plays piano.
“I just started, I’d say about three years ago; just taught myself and kept going with it.”
He learned to play like this simply by listening? Incredible.
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) February 18, 2019
It might not be a rivalry per se, but Kalil does not deny that the competition between him and his older brother, John, has helped him grow.
“Me going against, or going with my brother, has always pushed me to go a little further, work a little harder and it’s made me better as a person and a football player,” Branham said. “He always stepped it up a little bit and taken it a little bit further than somebody my age would normally do. Since my brother is two years older than me, I’m working at a higher level than normal people are.”
Last season Kalil’s big brother John rushed for 2,013 yards and 22 touchdowns. A first team all-state selection, John Branham played in the annual Ohio North-South Classic. Next season the running back will suit up for Eastern Michigan.
Despite all the honors, if the two lined up to race, Kalil would leave him in the dust. “It’s not normally a competition, but when something like that comes up, always I dominate.”
— Kalil Branham 2020 (@kbug_dash) April 18, 2019
If you didn’t think athleticism runs in the family, his cousin Malaki Branham is a top 50 shooting guard in the 2021 class, playing for LeBron James’ alma mater St. Vincent-St. Mary’s.
When will Branham Decide?
It appears that Kentucky has all of the momentum in Branham’s recruitment, but there’s no end in sight.
“I’m taking my time, going through all my options,” Branham told KSR.
Branham has 14 reported offers but he does not have a list of finalists. When the time comes, Kentucky should be in position to contend. We’ll see if Smith and Marrow can seal the deal for “the next Lynn Bowden.”