Rich Braham has come a long way in football since enrolling at West Virginia University as an invited walk-on in 1989.
After being redshirted that fall, he was switched from tight end to offensive tackle. Then in the following spring, coach Don Nehlen informed the home-grown former University High star that he’d be on full scholarship each of his next four years (1990-93).
Slowly, steadily, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound standout grew — literally.
He had added a hefty 100 pounds to his huge body when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in the spring of 1994.
“It wasn’t hard getting my weight up because of WVU’s great weight-lifting and conditioning program,” Braham said. “They didn’t have that at UHS when I was there.”
He had made the Class AA all-state first team in football and the all-state second team in basketball at UHS. Numerous honors came to him as a Mountaineer senior.
He made the All-Big East first team, the Kodak and United Press International All-America first team, and The Associated Press All-America second team.
Braham, who is a member of the WVU all-time-team for 1990-99, also cherishes the Ira Errett Rodgers Award for 1993 for having the highest cumulative academic grade point average on the squad. Athletic excellence and community service also were factors.
Braham was named the offensive MVP in 1993 when the Mountaineers for the second time in history finished the regular season 11-0 and played in the Sugar Bowl.
“I loved playing football for Coach Nehlen,” he said. “He was a great coach, and he is a great gentleman.
“Coming to WVU was a great opportunity for me. I had visited Virginia Tech when they had some compliance issues in basketball, and I received a phone call from Army.
“But I really wanted to stay in Morgantown. It was a great experience.”
Rich and his wife, the former Connie Edge of Wheeling, have three small children. Son Noah is 6, and twins, Luke and Riley, are 2. Mrs. Braham is also a WVU graduate.
Braham was a third-round NFL draft selection of the Arizona Cardinals, but was waived and picked up by Cincinnati, where he found a home. He retired in 2006 after 12 years with the Bengals.
In all, he played pro ball for 13 years, the last 10 as a starting center.
“I like center better than tackle because I was in control at that position up front.
“I loved football at every level.”
Braham was a volunteer coach at University High for two years after retiring as a player in 2006. Now he keeps busy looking after rentals and other properties he owns and also helping with the children.
He feels very fortunate that he never suffered an injury that would keep him out of action extensively.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” Braham stated. “I earned more money playing pro football — and really enjoying it — than I would have made doing something else for a living.”