Braxton Haley: Overcoming Adversity

Coming into the season, football was not a certainty for Braxton Haley as the receiver underwent surgery for an Achilles injury in 2023. Haley spoke with us about his road to recovery, his successful season in Nashville, and his outlook this year for the playoffs.

Injury in Arizona

In 2022, Braxton Haley dominated the Indoor Football League for the Arizona Rattlers with eye-popping statistics, notching 66 receptions for 1030 yards and 21 touchdowns, and was awarded All-IFL First Team honors for his efforts.

While Haley continued his campaign in a similarly dominant fashion in 2023, surgery for a partially torn Achilles left him in limbo about the direction of his career.

“I played through the injury in my second year with the Rattlers, just had some pain in Tucson—there wasn’t a specific instance—played through it and went to physical therapy,” Haley said.

“I could barely walk sometimes after the games and would limp in, but then got the surgery and was in bed for two weeks, the hardest two weeks of my life.”

But with the strong support of his family, his physical therapists, and an undying sense of self-belief, Haley recovered in six weeks, about a month ahead of a normal recovery schedule, and was back on track to get ready for football.

“I had to pay tens of thousands of dollars for the surgery and was going through the motions doubting if I would ever play football, but I believed in myself,” Haley said.

“I was running just as fast as before, jumping higher than ever.”

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Success in Nashville

Despite Haley’s injury, Coach Shackleford, the assistant head coach and director of scouting, called him before the season and took a chance on his talent. Haley joined the Kats this year on a team loaded with immense competition and talent at the receiver position.

“It was a huge opportunity,” Haley said. “Nashville is close to home, much closer than Arizona […], and I could see my family and niece […] I’m a simple man. God, family, football: I live a simple life.”

Haley has taken his faith-driven mentality to the field and had an exceptional year for the Kats next to his running mates Marquise Irvin, Charlie McClain, and Carrington Thompson, along with Kendrick Ings and Milton Williams, both of whom joined the team during the season.

“Everyone on this team can be a number one option,” Haley said.

“It’s about getting open, running great routes, being reliable, and getting the ball if it’s thrown to me.”

Despite the ball being spread out to such a talented core of receivers, Haley notched 32 receptions to lead the Kats with 429 yards and 11 touchdowns in 7 games played.

Looking ahead to the Playoffs

With the playoffs looming, Haley has his eyes set on the championship.

“All I care about is winning. With any team I’m on, no matter what [team] it is, the main goal is to win a championship, and anything I need to do, if I need to take a back seat or be in the driver’s seat, I just want to win and help my team win football games,” Haley said.

In the first round of the playoffs, the Kats (3-4) face the Orlando Predators (5-2), who feature Drew Powell, Haley’s former quarterback during his time with the Arizona Rattlers.

“We have a hard road ahead of us, starting with Orlando. Drew, he’s a talented guy—he’s won multiple MVPs, but the sky’s the limit. If the offense can play as well as the defense, then we can win the whole thing.”

Haley and the Kats are joined by former AFL MVP Randy Hippeard, who threw for 321 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first game for the Kats and is set to start for the team in the playoffs after injuries took Ramone Atkins and Dalton Oliver off the field.

“Ramone and Dalton were a huge blow for us, and you need time for a receiver-quarterback connection, but I’ve learned a lot from Hippeard,” Haley said. “We revamped the offense with him and his experience, and [as a receiver] it’s nothing we haven’t been through before. If you see the ball, go get the ball.”

Off the Field

When he’s not on the field or in the gym, Haley, who is into fashion, remains committed to building his brand, his family, and the community.

“I spend my time with my niece, or I’m out with the community. I’m a huge foodie: steak and seafood, sushi. I’m at Chipotle three or four times a week, or I’m at Milk and Honey, the brunch spot. They have the best bacon, egg, and cheese,” Haley said.

Haley and the Kats will play the Orlando Predators on July 5th at 7 PM EDT at the Kia Center in Orlando, Florida.

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