Deion Branch says he doesn't watch much of the NFL nowadays, but he does follow college football. More specifically, he focuses on his alma mater, the University of Louisville.

A season ago, the Cardinals shocked the ACC, jumping out to a 9-1 overall record and 7-1 in the conference. Branch booked a ticket to the regular-season finale, a home date with Kentucky, expecting to watch his squad clinch a major bowl berth.

The plan backfired. Before playing Kentucky, the Cardinals, ranked No. 3, still had to play at Houston -- and lost. Then, with Branch in attendance, the Wildcats stunned the Cardinals.

"We had a chance to play for the Orange, but when we lost, that went out the window," Branch remembers. "I'm sitting there literally talking to all the Orange Bowl executives. They were like, 'Yeah, we need you come down and do X, Y and Z.' They knew we were gonna beat UK. And we lost the game. I'm like, 'Fellas…' It was bad. It wasn't good. It was a rival, we lost at home."

Louisville ultimately lost the Citrus Bowl to LSU, stumbling to a 9-4 season. But the season will not be forgotten. Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson became the program's first Heisman Trophy winner. As a true sophomore, Jackson could not take his hardware to the NFL yet.

Lamar Jackson

Branch has taken an active role in mentoring Jackson. That loss to Kentucky was an immediate opportunity.

"He made a couple mistakes in the game," Branch says. "One of his biggest things that he and I spoke about is not trying to make every play. You can't do that. You've got other teammates around you, who you have to count on. You've got to count on these guys. They count on you to do your job. You got to do your part, as well."

Branch won two Super Bowls and was MVP when the Patriots beat the Eagles in February 2005. He played 11 NFL seasons, six and a half in New England. In short, Branch has seen a superstar quarterback at work. He can convey that knowledge to Jackson.

"Just stay composed, make sure you just continue to just go in and lead the team," Branch says. "These guys will follow. They’re going to do exactly what you say. Given some of the things that I was around, that I was prone to see with Tom [Brady], the way he carried himself, just trying to push that onto him."

Deion Branch, Tom Brady

Jackson's Heisman defense is off to a fast start. In two games against legitimate opponents in Purdue and North Carolina, Jackson has passed for 771 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 239 yards and three touchdowns. The 20-year-old has another chance to prove himself Saturday when No. 14 Louisville hosts No. 3 Clemson on ABC in primetime.

Branch, speaking to ThePostGame last Thursday, before the UNC game, gave a detailed scouting report:

"True enough, he can build on everything," Branch says. "We all know what he can do with his legs. The big talk is now, can he throw the ball? Is he a pocket passer? Can he be the guy that the NFL needs him to be? We know you can run. You won't last long in the NFL running the ball. We see the complications Cam [Newton] is going through now. You see the things that Michael Vick went through. These guys are great athletes, such as Lamar. They all can throw the ball. Lamar just has to prove it that he consistently do it. He can do it. But that's the thing that he’s really working on. I can’t say what I'm telling him to do. I’m all for a guy just improving on everything."

It is easy for many fans and former players to get excited about Jackson. But for Branch, who has seen the best at work, there is still so much room for improvement.

"He hasn't gotten that good. You know what I'm saying? He's not Tom Brady, so if you ain't Tom Brady, you keep working because Tom is working every day. That's how I look at it. My thing was with Jerry Rice. He was the greatest receiver in the game. If Jerry's working, then Deion needs to be working. That's how I thought."

Branch is one of five players to catch at least 20 receiving touchdowns from the arm of Tom Brady. Rob Gronkowski, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman are the other four. Branch spoke to ThePostGame at Gillette Stadium before the Patriots' opener against the Chiefs, where he was working with Bud Light. The brand placed a "Touchdown Glass" at every seat, which lit up when the Patriots scored touchdowns.

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