South Charlotte

Former Panther taking talent to Blue Devil field

Brandon Braxton grew up around football. His father, David, was a star defensive end at Wake Forest and a solid NFL player, playing six years and 71 games in the league with stops at Minnesota, Arizona and Cincinnati.

While football was in his blood, it wasn't his first love.

"I was never pushed to play football," said Braxton, who played soccer until the sixth grade. "But I always loved to play football in the backyard and with my friends. Eventually, it grew on me."

Braxton started playing in Cleveland, where his family lived before coming to Charlotte in 2008.

When he came to Providence High School, he joined a talented team under coach Randy Long and made it better.

Braxton helped lead the Panthers to a 15-11 record in his junior and senior seasons, including an 8-5 mark his final season, where he had 50 receptions for 792 yards and nine touchdowns, despite missing several games with a shoulder injury.

"Brandon was a big receiver who could run the day he got here," Long said.

As a freshman last year at Duke, Braxton showed promise from the start, breaking into the depth chart immediately and earning a starting spot on one of the best receiving corps in the ACC in his fourth game against Army.

Braxton played in 11 of 12 games and had five starts his freshman year, finishing with 14 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. He had a four-catch game against Boston College.

"My first year was kind of crazy," Braxton said. "It was tough learning all the plays and being in a new system. I made some mistakes but also got a good year of experience under my belt."

Braxton, 19, was expected to be in the starting lineup for game one against Richmond Sept. 3. Braxton is surrounded by All-ACC caliber receivers Conner Vernon (73 catches in 2010) and Donovan Varner (60 catches in 2010) with another all-league candidate in junior quarterback, Sean Renfree (3,131 yards/14 touchdowns passes last year) back to lead the offense.

Several other Charlotte area players will be helping the Blue Devils this year with linebacker Kelby Brown (Charlotte Christian), defensive back Ross Cockrell (Charlotte Latin) and defensive end Justin Foxx (Victory Christian) also expected to start for the Blue Devils.

Former Providence teammate tight end Braxton Deaver also is expected to be a factor. Deaver's father, Jay , played at Wake Forest with David Braxton.

"We have a lot of Charlotte guys here and that has made the transition a little easier for us," Braxton said. "We all want to be a part of putting Duke football back on the map."

He will do that with lessons his father taught him.

"We play different positions. He is super defensive-minded and I think offense first," Braxton said. "But he always taught me to play football, you have to be tough and you have to go 110 percent all of the time. That has never changed."