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Dan Campbell creating Amon-Ra St. Brown-like competitiveness in Brian Branch

Both Brian Branch and Amon-Ra St. Brown are trying to turn their tough NFL Draft experiences into motivation and greatness.

2023 NFL Draft - Portraits Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

Detroit Lions defensive back Brian Branch was the final player on hand at the 2023 NFL Draft to hear his name selected. After attending the event on Thursday—hoping and expecting to be drafted in the first round—Branch returned on Friday, not wanting to miss out on his once-in-a-lifetime moment of hearing his name called and taking the stage.

But a seed of motivation was also planted that night, with a little help from Dan Campbell and Amon-Ra St. Brown. It was just two years ago when St. Brown suffered an even more humbling experience on draft night. The Lions receiver had to wait until Day 3 to hear his name called, and he has since used that as daily motivation to prove his worth. He still has all 16 receivers who were taken in front of him in the 2021 draft memorized.

So a day after Branch was drafted, Campbell called him and told him to channel his inner St. Brown.

“I told him, ‘Let this be a chip on your shoulder,’” Campbell said last week. “He’s sitting there for a while and there again, it’s one of the reasons we traded back to get him because we couldn’t believe he was still sitting there. And you use that. No different than (what) Saint did. You use that and you show everyone else who passed on you what you’re capable of.”

That message clearly connected, because when asked about that experience, Branch gave a very St. Brown-like answer.

“It’s going to be with me forever,” Branch said.

Now that Campbell has interacted with Branch in person and seen him on the football field, the professionalism has jumped off the page.

“He has a very serious approach about him, especially for a young player,” Campbell said. “He’s very intense.”

Of course, the Lions didn’t just draft him because he’s got that next-level intensity and football character. Branch also played some good ball at Alabama, and that, too, has already shown up during Lions OTAs and minicamp.

“He’s really been here for two weeks with the vets practicing and he’s doing a good job,” Campbell said. “Here’s what you—you can see it on tape, one of the reasons we acquired him, he’s an instinctive player. He has instincts.”

Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn sees those instincts, too. And despite the Lions having a better and deeper secondary than they’ve had in a long time, Glenn said it’s going to be hard to keep this guy off the field in 2023.

“I can’t tell you exactly if he’s going to start or anything like that, but I’ll tell you what, he’ll have a role on this defense.”

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