PREP SOCCER: Cullman’s Branham signs with Birmingham-Southern after record-setting career

Back row L-R: CHS Principal Kim Hall, Meaghan Hackbarth, Jacob Brown. Front row L-R: Jennifer, Abby and Chris Branham. (Photo courtesy of Cullman High School)

CULLMAN, Ala. – After spending the last six years playing for the Lady Bearcats and filling the record books, Cullman’s Abby Branham signed an athletic scholarship with Birmingham-Southern College Thursday to stretch her playing career to the next step.

Abby posted several school records in her playing days with the Lady Bearcats. She racked up 167 goals in her career at Cullman, a school and state record, holds the school and state record for most goals in a single season with 56, holds the school record for most points (assists and goals) in a career, has the school and state record for most consecutive matches with a hat trick, was selected to the All-State First Team in 2017 and 2018 and has been voted team MVP for the past three seasons.

Abby touched on her relationship with her coach at Cullman, Jacob Brown, as well as her teammates and how they helped drive her toward the player she is today.

“It was very big, I don’t know what I would’ve done without him,” Branham said. “Having my teammates by my side is what really helped me, and I had a foreign exchange student come this year and she’s my best friend and I don’t know how I could’ve done it without her either. I think having my teammates by my side really gave me motivation to want to play for them these last few years.”

Branham has been a big part of a lot of wins for Cullman over the years but now she’s ready for something new. She’s ready to face new obstacles on the field and is excited learn from some new voices as well.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting new people and learning a new perspective from a different coach,” Branham said. “I’m just looking forward to playing at the next level.”

Lady Bearcats head coach Jacob Brown has coached Branham since she was a seventh grader so he’s as familiar with her game and her development as anyone. Brown knew right away that Abby would have some success on the field but couldn’t have predicted the type of numbers she would put up or the player-coach relationship that grew between them over the years.

“I knew the second she got to Cullman that she was going to be a special player. Then, right around her sophomore year is about when everything clicked, and she understood everything we were trying to do and obviously turned into the beast that she is. I would say in my opinion that she’s the best player I’ve coached and is arguably the best girls’ player to ever come through Cullman,” Brown said. “She holds a special place in my life just because she’s been here every year that I’ve been a coach. We’ve both been here for six years so we’ve always been side by side so she’s the one person that I’ve had on my varsity team all the way through. She was my coach on the field and we have a very special relationship that I will cherish the rest of my time.”

Abby obviously has the physical talent to play at the college level, but Brown believes that what makes her special is her intangibles. Those traits are what he says will lead to continued success for Abby going forward.

“From a physical standpoint, her speed with the ball is huge but she also has a couple of things you can’t teach; the desire to score and grit,” Brown said. “Plenty of people can shoot, everybody on our team and most teams can shoot, but the desire to score is what gives you that extra motivation and makes for a true goal scorer. You can’t teach competitiveness; you can’t teach the drive to win so those are two things that she was gifted. No coach can teach that kind of thing, it’s something that is bestowed on the greater athletes.”

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