Ever since he was a little kid growing up in south Florida, Brad Banks has shown a knack for turning dreams into reality.
That helps to explain why at the age of 30, the former Iowa all-America quarterback still hasn’t given up on his dream of playing in the NFL.
Many of you probably have given up on the chance of Banks playing in the NFL, which is understandable, considering the circumstances.
But if anybody is used to achieving his dreams, it’s Banks, with one noticeable exception.
The NFL has proven to be beyond his reach thus far, but Banks isn’t ready to stop reaching for it.
That’s largely why he is playing arena football for the Iowa Barnstormers; that and the fact that he just loves to compete and play quarterback.
Banks hopes to follow the same improbable path that took Kurt Warner from Iowa Barnstormer quarterback in the late 1990s to an NFL roster.
“It’s definitely a lot of motivation,” Banks said Sunday afternoon during a telephone interview. “Kurt was one of those guys you just have to look up to. He’s a great guy, first and foremost, a God-fearing guy.
“And his story coming from here, bagging groceries to playing in the arena league and then off to the NFL, that’s a dream for a lot of kids and an inspiration to a lot of people.”
Banks is making the most of his opportunity, including throwing a franchise record 10 touchdown passes in just his third game with the Barnstormers, a 76-69 victory over San Jose this Friday in San Jose, Calif.
“I’m setting the bar high, and I like trying to reach it,” Banks said.
The fact that he is playing arena football in his adoptive state of Iowa makes it more special because Banks fell in love with life here during his two seasons as a Hawkeye in 2001 and 2002.
“That’s the icing on the cake to be back here in Iowa playing football,” said the Belle Glade, Fla., native.
Banks described his situation with the Barnstormers as being ideal because in addition to playing instead of sitting, he knows the only chance he has of getting another look from an NFL team is if he excels on the field. He gets to help the Barnstormers and himself at the same time.
“That was one of my biggest things, to play,” Banks said. “I’m not sitting. And I know when I play football, I tend to do some awesome things.
“Every time I’m given an opportunity I win championships, high school, junior college, Iowa, whatever the case may be. Give me an opportunity, and I make the best of it.”
That isn’t an exaggeration.
Banks won a state title in high school and in junior college before leading Iowa to a Big Ten title and an undefeated record in conference play in 2002.
More incredible is that he went from being a backup quarterback at Iowa in 2001 to the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2002.
So Banks figures if he can do that, he can do just about anything, including making an NFL roster at an age when many are retired from playing football and when most people have written him off.
“I think God can work it out, and I trust him, and I’m trusting the abilities that he’s given me,” Banks said. “There have been a lot of prayers, and God answers prayers.”
Banks believes that he has more than just divine intervention on his side, though.
The arena league is a far cry from the NFL, but neither has a place for inaccurate quarterbacks.
Warner credited the arena league for making him NFL ready because the game is played at such a fast pace and in such small area.
“In this game, everything happens faster and there is a lot of timing, too, where you have to be on time throwing the football,” Banks said. “Those two things right there is arena football from a quarterback’s perspective.”
Banks signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins in 2003, but he was released shortly thereafter.
He then spent five nondescript seasons playing in the Canadian Football League from 2004-08 as a backup quarterback.
His CFL statistics, which include 1,195 passing yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions, won’t make NFL scouts drool.
Nor will Banks’ height; he is just under 6-feet, or his arm strength, or the fact that he will turn 31 later this month.
Banks just hopes that some NFL team will look beyond his shortcomings and take a chance on him this summer, assuming the league resolves its labor issue.
He should be applauded for keeping his dream alive and for not allowing it to become a destructive obsession.
The odds are definitely against Banks, just like they were against Warner more than a decade ago.
But we know how Warner’s journey ended, with him now knocking on the door of the NFL Hall of Fame.
And we have tiny Butler University getting ready to play in the NCAA men’s basketball title game for the second year in a row.
Many things seem impossible until they happen.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football