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Branham ‘centered’ on new position at Mars Hill

Posted: February 12, 2018 3:02 p.m.
Updated: February 13, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I

LUGOFF-ELGIN’S SETH BRANHAM SIGNED a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and football-playing pursuits at Mars Hill College while flanked by his parents, Darlene and Jody Branham. Standing from behind are, left, L-E assistant principal Jeff Carraway and L-E head football coach/athletic director Matt Campbell.

When college recruiters darkened Matt Campbell’s door to check on Lugoff-Elgin’s senior football prospects, most came to look into the situation along the offensive line.

The 2017 edition of the Demons were big, strong and senior-laden on the offensive front. While two of the group signed with Division I programs during December’s early signing period, one of the plums of that group was still available in February.

On the second National Signing Day for football student-athletes, Mars Hill College came into the West Wateree and scooped up versatile L-E offensive lineman Seth Branham. While former teammates Wyatt Campbell and Malik Harkness are expected to be redshirted as freshman, Matt Campbell said he can see Branham playing from the first day he steps on Mars Hill’s campus, located some 20 minutes outside of Asheville, N.C.

“Seth is a really good player. He’s probably the closest to being game ready that we have coming out of here,” said Matt Campbell, who just completed his third season as the Demons’ head coach. “I think he is someone who can come right in and play for you. I don’t know what their depth chart looks like right now and if they have a senior at center but if you get the opportunity to redshirt Seth Branham that could really be devastating for their opponents.”

Listed at 6-foot-2 and entering his final high school campaign at 270 pounds, Branham was a three-year starter for Campbell and was coached by Dr. Mike Armstrong, who also serves as the school’s director of strength and conditioning along with his job as L-E’s offensive line coach.

In the days leading up to his signing with Mars Hill, Branham was named as one of three South Carolina High School Strength Coaches athletes of the year. As he said following his signing --- and was echoed by Campbell --- strength is not an issue for Branham.

“The thing about Seth is that he is so darn strong,” said Campbell, who was an NFL offensive lineman for most of his seven years in the league. “You don’t have many kids coming out of high school squatting 600 pounds and benching over 400 pounds. He can come in and make an immediate impact.”

Making a final choice on where to spend his college days, however, was a tougher challenge for Branham than a trip into the weight room for one of his regular workouts. His final visit was to Pikeville College in Kentucky which joined Mars Hills and Wingate University in his final three. In the end, Mars Hill --- a member of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Conference --- had too much to offer.

“I really like the area and the coaching staff,” Branham said of his decision. “It really felt like a family when I went up there for the first time and then, the next time. They really seemed like they care and that they want to take care of me. I really enjoyed that.”

Branham said he was hearing from college coaches at the start of the 2017 campaign. Things started ramping up twoard the end of and after the season. Once his football duties were completed, he was engaged in talks with and lined up visits to and with college coaches and their respective campuses.

Branham is not your typical one trick pony when it comes to athletics. He held down the heavyweight position for the L-E wrestling team as recently as the start of his senior year but when he was named to play in the Touchstone Energy North-South All-Star Football Game in Myrtle Beach in December, he decided to concentrate solely on football.

Leaving wrestling, he said, was not an easy thing to do.

“It was tough,” he said of hanging up his singlet, “but I really wanted to focus on football and on my academics so that I could get everything right and be ready to go to college full force.”

What appealed to all the schools which recruited Branham was his ability to play more than one position on the interior offensive front. In addition to playing guard, he was moved over to center for several games last year for an L-E squad which advanced to the second round of the 4A Lower State playoffs.

Being able to play more than one spot will help Branham. Campbell, however, thinks his former standout is best suited to having the ball in his hand before each play. For his part, Branham looks forward to being given a shot over the football. “Center. That’s where I like to play,” he said when asked his preference for his position.

Campbell said Branham received a taste as to what to expect at center last fall. There will be other new responsibilities which came with playing that post at the next level.

“It’s going to be handling that one technique or that zero shade over his head,” Campbell said of playing center in college for Branham. “He did have the opportunity to play some center for us this past year and he did a good job there. I think it really helped him, more or less, to market himself for recruiting.”

Branham said he expects to add between 15 to 20 pounds by the time he steps on the field at Mars Hill. Making sure that weight is muscle rather than fat is not something Campbell feels the Lions’ staff will have to worry about.

“Seth is a strong kid and he works hard. He’s a guy who will work himself to death, literally,” Campbell said of Branham’s work ethic. “The good thing about Seth is that he’s a tough kid who always strives for perfection.”

In trying to make himself even better in order to play at the college level, Branham said his chief focus is to improve on his foot speed and quickness. Campbell said flexibility will also be thrown into the mix for a young man who scratched one objective off his bucket list on signing day. He also talked about the challenge that awaits him.

“I’ve always wanted to play college football. This is like a dream come true,” said a smiling Branham who intends to major in business at Mars Hill.

 “Everybody’s good in college. You’re always competing because the guy behind you is just as good as you are. You can’t slip up. You always have to bring your ‘A’ game.”

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