But that little fighter, the son of Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, will celebrate his 10th birthday in April. Deiondre and his twin brother, Deiontey, were born prematurely April 10, 2001, during Branch’s senior year at Louisville, and Deiondre has been battling throughout his entire life.
Deiondre lives in a nursing home in Kentucky. He gets around in a wheelchair, but he can sometimes walk with the help of a walker. He can’t speak, but he has learned how to communicate. Deiondre is always making progress, and that’s why his father wakes up every day with a smile so wide it could light up a room.
“He’s doing great,” Branch said Friday, with a passionate expression exuding from his face as he got ready at his Gillette Stadium locker. “It’s real near and deep to me. That’s my child. That’s my son. That’s my all.”
Deiondre’s mother is in Kentucky, and that’s where Deion and his wife live during the offseason.
“Everything is going great, to be honest,” Branch said. “He’s getting older. He’s getting bigger. He’s smiling a lot more. He’s starting to notice a lot more things around him and the people that surround him. It’s a true blessing.”
Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX, has also been doubted throughout his life, but he knows it’s nothing compared to what Deiondre has gone through. That’s why, when former Vikings receiver Cris Carter launched an unprovoked attack on Branch’s game last week, Branch paid no mind.
He’s got bigger things to worry about — real-life issues — than some loudmouthed guy with an agenda. Branch doesn’t get riled up by that kind of stuff.
He’s got all the motivation he needs just by looking at Deiondre, who can’t play with his siblings like other 9-year-olds. But, Deiondre’s got that fight, that heart of a champion, that will of a Branch. That’s the stuff that Deion lives for.
“I could care less what Cris Carter or anybody else said,” Branch said. “The fact is, I’ve got bigger things on my table and on my plate than what another man or another woman says about me. [Deiondre] is doing great. Honestly, the situation that he’s in is a blessing, going from where he was to where he is now. It’s a blessing. I wake up every day, and I can’t complain. He puts a smile on my face.”