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Harty: Magic season made Banks a legend

[ 0 ] May 9, 2013 |

If we hadn’t seen it unfold in the fall of 2002, the Brad Banks rags-to-riches story would seem too good to be true.

It reads more like fiction than fact how Banks rose from obscurity to become an Iowa football legend in a little over three months.

There probably won’t be another story like his because the odds are certainly against having another Iowa quarterback go from being the backup in one season to the Heisman Trophy runner-up in the next season.

That’s what Banks did during his two seasons at Iowa in 2001 and 2002. His rise to stardom, coupled with Iowa’s unprecedented success in 2002, helped spawn a legend that continues to grow to this day.

The 33-year old Banks learned last week that he will be inducted into the University of Iowa Athletics Varsity Club Hall of Fame. He and rest of the 2013 inductees, who have yet to be announced, will be honored at one of Iowa’s first home games this coming season.

Banks earned a spot in the Hall of Fame despite only starting 13 games as a Hawkeye.

“That’s crazy,” Banks said Wednesday in a phone interview. “It’s a blessing and it’s amazing. God put me in a position to be around some awesome friends and good coaches and in front of an awesome fan base.

“You wanted to go out and give it your all every Saturday. We had a great group of guys and I couldn’t have done it without the supporting cast.”

Banks always is quick to point out his 2002 supporting cast, which included some of the greatest players in school history such as strong safety Bob Sanders, left tackle Robert Gallery and tight end Dallas Clark.

But the soft-spoken Banks was the straw that stirred Iowa’s potent attack in 2002. He played the position like few others have at Iowa by using his skills as a dual-threat quarterback to shred defenses.

And he played it well enough to make the Iowa Hall of Fame barely a decade later. Banks said he was in awe after learning about his latest achievement.

“God is just overwhelming me with a lot of different things,” said Banks, who currently lives in West Des Moines and helps run a nonprofit organization that provides assistance for families stricken by ALS. “I just thought about that season and how cool it was to go out and compete and to play with a great group of guys who I’m still buddies with to this day.

“We built something special, not only an outstanding Hawkeye season, but great friendships. And I’m grateful and thankful for that.”

Banks tried to educate himself on Iowa’s tradition during his brief stint as a Hawkeye because it was all new to him at the time. He had been raised in Florida and played two seasons at a junior college in Mississippi before singing with Iowa.

Banks acquired some of his knowledge by visiting the Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame building on several occasions.

“I used to go into the Hall of Fame building and check out all the hall of famers,” Banks said. “It’s a nice facility and it’s a cool place. I didn’t know whether I would get in or not. But I didn’t really think about it at the time. I just used to like to go in there and enjoy the scenery, so to speak.”

Banks deserves this latest honor not only for how he performed behind center, but also for how he conducted himself as a person. I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him. I also can’t recall a time when Banks was rude or standoffish to anybody in the media regardless of the situation.

He was always  a smile waiting to happen in college and still is today. Banks once said that his mother was happy just hearing the birds sing in the morning. He inherited that same positive outlook on life.

One of my most vivid memories of the 2002 season is when Banks faced the media after Iowa’s devastating 36-31 loss to Iowa State at Kinnick Stadium in the third game of the season. Banks had committed some costly turnovers in the second half that contributed to Iowa’s unraveling, but he made no excuses afterward. He blamed himself for the loss. He vowed to get better. And he kept his composure.

His team responded by winning its next nine games in a row, including all eight Big Ten games. It was able to do so largely because of Banks’ leadership skills. The team always came first with Banks, even after he became a star.

Some Iowa fans still are upset that Banks didn’t play more as a junior in 2001 while serving as the backup to senior Kyle McCann. They assume with all his success in 2002 that Banks would’ve been better than McCann and they blame Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz for being too loyal to McCann.

Banks not surprisingly said it’s wrong to assume that. He also defended Ferentz’s decision to play McCann.

“I trusted coach Ferentz with that,” Banks said. “There were things a lot of people don’t know. They didn’t know what my comfort level was about it. For me, it was all about being a team guy and being ready to play when I was called upon. That was the biggest thing for me.

“I knew my time would come and I just wanted to seize the moment.”

The fact that Banks never achieved stardom as a professional football player makes the fall of 2002 more special to him. It was the high point in a career that defied the odds.

And now Banks’ career will forever be on display in a special place. And deservedly so.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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