Mel Branch

We all remember the movie, The Right Stuff, about the original seven Mercury astronauts. DeRidder High School graduate, Mel Branch, had the right stuff.

The Golden Age of LSU football started in 1958. That team, which Mel was part of, did something no team in the history of LSU football had ever done before and has not done since. Not the LSU team of Coach Nick Saban that won the national championship or the Les Miles team that won the national championship ever went undefeated.

Mel Branch was the left defensive end on the famous LSU Chinese Bandits. That name was given to the defensive team by Coach Paul Dietzel. He said that the fierce gang tackling of the Chinese Bandits reminded him of the "Terry and the Pirates" comic strip. He further said that the Chinese Bandits were the most feared bandits in the world. That name stuck; and even today, some fifty years later, the name LSU Chinese Bandits is legendary. 

The game that started the legend was the second game of the year against Paul "Bear" Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Early in the second quarter, All-American Billy Cannon fumbled, and an Alabama player picked the ball up and ran it forty-five yards to the LSU five-yard line. Coach Dietzel sent in the Chinese Bandits, and a LSU football legend was about to be born. Alabama gained only one yard in three tries against Mel's Chinese Bandits and had to settle for a field goal, the only score of the game.

In nine of the games played that special season, only seven points or less were scored against Mel's Chinese Bandits.

After his playing career ended at LSU, Mel went on to play for the Dallas Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, and finished his playing career with the Miami Dolphins. Mel Branch made the NFL All-Star team in 1960, '61, '62, and '63.

The street in front of Pinewood Elementary in DeRidder is named in his honor.