As for his smarts: Does credit go to mom or dad?
"I think they might debate that, that it comes from both of them," said Branch, who carries a 3.99 grade-point average and will have multiple academic scholarships to cover tuition costs.
Branch said he plans to study business administration and he wants to focus on entrepreneurship. Maybe life as a venture capitalist.
But Branch is hoping to make a name for himself on the football field, too. Growing up a lifelong Husker fan, Branch has an understanding of what the walk-on program means to the Nebraska football program.
"It comes with the recognition, like this is kind of the storied programs that made Nebraska great," Branch said. "You're just trying to come in and be the next great one and uphold that tradition of excellence in the walk-on program."
And who knows? Maybe someday there will be two Blackshirts hanging up in house Branch grew up in.
"I think that's always the goal, getting on field and earning playing time, but I'm going to go in, put my head down and go to work and let the chips fall where they may," Branch said.
Meet the Journal Star's Super-State football first team
How each member of the Super-State first-team defense left their mark this season
DL | Trevor Brown
Waverly | 6-3 | 265 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Brown dominated on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, the returning Class B all-state tackle helped pave the way for a Viking ground game that averaged 259 yards per game. Defensively, Brown lived in opponents’ backfields with 32 tackles for loss among his 59 total stops for the season. Brown should be a Division I college commit by this time next year.
DL | Maddox Burton
Lincoln Southeast | 6-5 | 290 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Burton was the centerpiece of a stout Knights defense that propelled them to an 8-1 season and quarterfinal finish in the Class A playoffs. Burton made things difficult for opposing offensive lines, opening up plays for the linebackers behind him. The two-time, first-team all-city player finished with 47 tackles and a fumble recovery, and registered a season-high nine stops in the season finale against Elkhorn South.
DL | Cade Haberman
Omaha Westside | 6-3 | 280 | Sr. | College: Northern Illinois
The returning first-team Super-State player once again controlled things on both sides of the ball with his relentless physical play. He had 53 tackles this season, four tackles for loss, a quarterback sack, five quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and two blocked kicks.
LB | James Conway
Millard West | 6-3 | 215 | Sr. | College: Fordham
The returning second-team Super-Stater took it to another level as a senior, registering 118 tackles, two sacks, seven stops behind the line of scrimmage and two fumble recoveries. His size and speed combined with his knack of always being around the football projects well at the college level.
LB | Jake Appleget
Lincoln Southeast | 6-5 | 210 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Appleget moved to the middle of the Knights’ defense this season, and he shined in his new position. He had 67 tackles with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, but also contributed as a wide receiver on offense with 17 catches for 280 yards and five TDs. He also completed both passes he attempted for 44 yards.
LB | Ben Radicia
Omaha Westside | 5-10 | 195 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Radicia is the only player coach Brett Froendt has allowed to call defensive schemes during a game, and his physical play matched his mental understanding of the game. Radicia was among the state leaders in tackles this season with 103, a total that included 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage, plus five sacks, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
LB | Jack McDonnell
Bellevue West | 5-10 | 175 | College: Undecided
The returning Class A all-stater and second-team Super-Stater put together another productive season. In seven games, McDonnell had 77 tackles, an interception, five pass breakups, three sacks, 13 tackles for loss and a blocked punt.
DB | Avante Dickerson
Omaha Westside | 6-0 | 165 | Sr. | College: Undecided
The three-time, first-team Super-State cornerback used his unmatched speed to help propel Westside to an undefeated Class A state championship. Westside coach Brett Froendt calls Dickerson a “lockdown corner” who surrendered just one touchdown in four years. As a senior, he had four interceptions, two tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. On offense, he rushed for 303 yards, had 34 receptions for 583 yards and six TDs and scored 11 touchdowns. Committed to Minnesota last spring, but didn’t sign with the Gophers this past week, signaling a reopening of his recruitment.
DB | Derek Branch
Lincoln Southeast | 5-11 | 175 | Sr. | College: Nebraska, walk-on
Like his teammate Appleget, Branch contributed both on defense and offensively as a wide receiver for the Knights. He had 56 tackles from his cornerback position with three interceptions and four pass breakups. Offensively, Branch had 18 catches for 181 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed the ball seven times for 62 yards and another score.
DB | Koby Bretz
Omaha Westside | 6-2 | 200 | Sr. | College: Nebraska
Bretz emerged as one of the most explosive players in the state this season, and that helped him land the Husker scholarship offer. As a safety on defense, he had 54 tackles (one for loss) with three interceptions, four pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a caused fumble. On offense, Bretz caught 37 passes for 583 yards and eight TDs. Bretz was also a threat as a kickoff and punt returner, taking a kickoff to the end zone in the quarterfinals of the playoffs against Lincoln East.
DB | Alex Bullock
Creighton Prep | 6-2 | 180 | Sr. | College: Nebraska, walk-on
Bullock was a huge contributor on both sides of the ball for the Junior Jays. On defense, Bullock had five interceptions to go with 27 tackles. As a wide receiver, Bullock hauled in 54 passes for 751 yards and eight TDs.
Ath. | Drew Christo
Elkhorn | 6-5 | 230 | Sr. | College: Nebraska, baseball
Christo provided the athleticism that helped the Antlers win the Class B state championship. He was an offensive star with 715 yards in receptions (including three for 65 yards in the state title win over Aurora) and a defensive force with 70 tackles, a pair of quarterback sacks and an interception from his linebacker spot.
Ath. | Eli Larson
St. Paul | 6-0 | 220 | Sr. | College: Missouri Western
Larson never left the field as a running back and linebacker, and he was a star on both sides of the ball. He had 79 tackles total, 12 of which were behind the line of scrimmage, while also recovering two fumbles. Larson rushed for 2,087 yards and 31 touchdowns to finish his career with 5,703 yards and 87 rushing TDs. He also contributed in the passing game with five receptions for 163 yards and three scores this season. His 100 career touchdowns is both a Class C-1 and C-2 state record.
Ath. | Sam Scott
Omaha Skutt | 6-2 | 220 | Sr. | College: Wyoming
When Omaha Public Schools canceled its football season, the former Omaha North standout running back/linebacker transferred to Skutt and was in the lineup by midseason before getting injured in Week 9 in the first quarter against Elkhorn and missing the first round of the playoffs. He averaged 11 yards per carry to finish with 684 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. On defense, Scott had 33 tackles, three behind the line of scrimmage.
P | Gannon Gragert
Elkhorn | 6-4 | 215 | Sr. | College: Northwest Missouri State
Gragert, the Class A all-state punter as a junior, averaged 43.6 yards per punt on the Antlers’ Class B title team this fall. Gragert was one of the top receivers in Class B with 37 receptions for 712 yards and nine touchdowns, and also contributed defensively with 50 tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks.
How each member of the Super-State first-team offense left their mark this season
QB | Cole Payton
Omaha Westside | 6-3 | 215 | Sr. | College: North Dakota State
The left-handed Payton was a dual threat, and the state championship win over Elkhorn South was a perfect example as he threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another 129 and three TDs. Payton finished the season as a 1,000-1,000 yard guy, completing 61% of his passes for 1,704 yards and 22 TDs, and rushing for 1,029 more and 17 scores. The three-year starter finished his high school career passing for 5,263 yards and 65 TDs, and running for 2,118 yards and 37 trips to the end zone.
QB | Noah Walters
Lincoln East | 6-0 | 185 | Jr. | College: Undecided
Walters was the leading passer in Class A with 2,753 yards and 28 touchdowns. Walters threw for more than 400 yards three times in the Spartans’ 7-3 season — going for 417 and five TDs in a Week 2 win over Papillion-La Vista South, piling up 450 yards and five TDs in a 46-41 shootout loss to Millard North, and lighting up a Westside secondary with two Super-State members for 440 yards (40-of-62) and two TDs in a quarterfinal playoff loss. His scrambling ability often opened up the biggest passing plays, and Walters rushed for 219 yards on the season, including a 109-yard performance in a second-round playoff win over North Platte.
RB | LJ Richardson
Bellevue West | 6-1 | 220 | Jr. | College: Undecided
In his first season as a starter, Richardson followed in the footsteps of Bellevue West Super-State running backs Jaylin Bradley and Jay Ducker to become a potential Division I college recruit. Richardson used his size and speed to rush for 1,239 yards (8.7 yards per carry average) and 15 touchdowns in just seven games. He put together back-to-back games of 287 yards and 234 yards against Millard South and Kearney, respectively, in late September. He should be one of the top college prospects statewide in the class of 2022.
RB | Aiden Young
Elkhorn | 5-9 | 180 | Sr. | College: Nebraska, walk-on
The four-year starter blossomed into the go-to player offensively on the Antlers’ Class B state championship team. His ability to pop off a big play was evident in Elkhorn’s win over Aurora in the state finals as he returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and broke a 46-yard run for another score. Young, who finished the season with 1,482 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns, was also a weapon as a receiver with 10 catches for 160 yards and a TD. Intercepted three passes and had 33 tackles as a defensive back.
WR | Keagan Johnson
Bellevue West | 6-1 | 195 | Sr. | College: Iowa
Johnson made the most of his opportunities this season, hauling in 51 receptions for 935 yards and 10 TDs in only seven games. Johnson was exclusively a defensive player as a sophomore, so in 19 games over the past two seasons, Johnson has 103 career catches for 1,607 yards and 18 touchdowns.
WR | Carter Glenn
Lincoln East | 5-11 | 175 | Sr. | College: Undecided
A shoulder injury in a Week 4 game against Millard North limited Glenn to six games this season, but he was extremely productive when he was in there. Of his first 14 receptions this season, 10 went for touchdowns as he averaged 46.7, 59.5, 34.5 and 41 yards per catch in the first four games. He didn’t score in the playoff loss to Omaha Westside, but he had 14 receptions for 123 yards to finish the season with 28 catches for 670 yards. Glenn considers himself a basketball-first athlete, but he is now getting recruiting attention in football.
TE/WR | James Carnie
Norris | 6-5 | 225 | Sr. | College: Nebraska
Carnie added size, strength and speed during the offseason, which eventually paid off in Power Five scholarship offers and the Husker invitation that he went on to accept. He put those attributes to use on the football field with 38 receptions for 594 yards and 11 touchdowns in helping the Titans reach the quarterfinals of the Class B playoffs. He originally committed to Miami (Ohio) last spring.
OL | Teddy Prochazka
Elkhorn South | 6-9 | 300 | Sr. | College: Nebraska
The two-time, first-team Super-Stater continued to impress with the agility that comes with his size and strength, which is one of the reasons he’s one of the most highly recruited offensive linemen in the country from the senior class. Prochazka’s play at tackle not only made things easier for the Storm offense to operate, but he also emerged as a factor defensively late in the season at defensive end. He was a starter on the Storm basketball team last season, but is enrolling at Nebraska in January.
OL | Kekoa Chai
Bellevue West | 6-0 | 305 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Chai did the work up front that allowed Bellevue West’s offense to average 246 yards per game rushing and 266 yards passing per game. Chai registered 27 solo pancake blocks in seven games and, according to coach Michael Huffman, was extremely effective when he was pulling where he “really laid the wood on defensive ends and linebackers.”
OL | Jack Nickolisen
Millard South | 6-3 | 280 | Sr. | College: Nebraska-Kearney
The three-year starter was a force up front on both sides of the ball for the Patriots’ Class A state semifinal playoff team. Offensively, he registered 19 pancake blocks. Defensively, he had 47 tackles, two sacks, five tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
OL | Isaac Zatechka
Elkhorn South | 6-4 | 270 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Elkhorn South coach Guy Rosenberg calls Zatechka “the best center we’ve ever had.” He’s also a long-snapper, which makes him an even more valuable asset at the next level. He has an offer from Montana State and is also getting recruiting interest from Nebraska (where his father played), Kansas State, North Dakota, North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Wyoming, Northern Illinois and Northern Iowa.
OL | Nolan Gorczyca
Omaha Roncalli | 6-6 | 285 | Sr. | College: Buffalo
The returning Class B all-stater has been a force on both sides of the ball for three seasons. Gorczyca is a three-sport athlete, also playing basketball and baseball in the past for the Crimson Pride, and that athleticism should serve him well as a college football player in the Mid-American Conference.
Ath. | TJ Urban
Millard South | 6-1 | 190 | Sr. | College: Air Force
Urban, a three-year starter and second-team Super-Stater a year ago, branched out from his quarterback position as a senior. He rushed for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns, and threw for 843 and eight scores. But Urban was also a force in the secondary on defense with 43 tackles, two tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and two pass breakups.
Ath. | Preston Pearson
Kearney | 6-2 | 195 | Sr. | College: Chadron State
Pearson was the driving force behind Kearney’s late-season playoff run to the Class A semifinals. He finished with 1,295 yards passing and 15 touchdowns, and rushed for another 547 and nine scores. He was at his best in the overtime upset win over defending state champion Bellevue West in the quarterfinals, when he passed for 219 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 117 more and two scores.
K | Trenton Brehm
Papillion-La Vista South | 5-9 | 170 | Sr. | College: Undecided
Brehm led Class A with nine field goals (in 12 attempts) this season, including makes from 52, 49, 48 and 44 yards. Besides also being the Titans’ punter, Brehm was a starting free safety with 71 tackles (eight for loss), a fumble recovery and five pass breakups.
Reach Clark Grell at 402-473-2639 or email@example.com. On Twitter at @LJSSportsGrell.