Banks looking to leave his mark at Minnesota

Tyler Rushmeyer

Trumaine Banks has been a staple for Minnesota football since the day he set foot in Tulsa on a late summer day three years ago.

In his first career start on Aug. 30, 2003, Banks collected five tackles, helping the Gophers defeat the Hurricane in convincing fashion. Since then, he has missed just two games while establishing himself as a symbol of stability for younger players.

Banks has started all 36 games that he has appeared in during his four-year college career, collecting over 150 tackles and breaking up 29 passes, just three short of a school record.

When asked about his accomplishments, Banks stressed that hard work is what got him to the point he’s at today.

“I don’t really think about those things,” Banks said. “I just want to come out and compete every day and if the accolades come, they come,” Banks said.

Junior cornerback Jamal Harris described Banks as a funny guy who is respected by everyone on the team.

“He’s got a lot of experience. Look at how many games he’s started,” said Harris, who Banks hosted during his recruitment. “He helped me out a lot when I was a freshman and still does to this day.”

As an all-conference player on both sides of the ball at Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, Ohio, Banks faced off multiple times against his childhood friend, junior wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright of rival high school Walnut Ridge.

Banks, who lived down the street from Wheelwright, said their friendship off the field quickly turned into a rivalry on the field.

“We’d wait all season for that matchup, getting fired up to face each other,” Banks said. “We still like to go back and forth in practice like old times.”

Both Banks and Wheelwright played wide receiver and defensive back in high school, and found themselves face-to-face on numerous occasions.

“I never scored on him all through high school, but he got one on me during my first game at corner,” said Wheelwright, shaking his head and smiling. “I remember he caught the ball over me and then walked backwards into the end zone. He still talks trash about it to this day.”

Banks described his matchups against Wheelwright as battles.

“My team kept throwing deep balls to me all game, so they figured if they put Ernest over there I wouldn’t be able out jump him,” Banks said. “It was his first time he was at corner, so I just took advantage of it. Somehow, I didn’t get a penalty for that walk.”

Both players light up when reminiscing about their high school rivalries.

“His attitude – he had a swagger like no one could stop him back then,” Wheelwright said. “When the game came down to it, the ball went to Trumaine and everybody knew it. I admired that attitude and I try to take the same approach for myself.”

Wheelwright, a year younger than Banks, said he has always respected Banks’ attitude and toughness.

“Sometimes I need to remind him of that swagger he had,” Wheelwright said. “He’s a great football player.”

When recruited by Minnesota in 2001, Banks said he liked everything about the campus and committed immediately, canceling all other visits.

This season, Banks will embark on his fourth season as the Gophers’ starting cornerback – a position that earned him honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season.

“I guess you have to be pretty good to play that many ball games,” Banks said. “But what it all boils down to is hard work. Anybody can get a position but what separates us is what you do to hold on to that position.”

Banks, who will graduate with a degree in business and marketing education this spring, said he wants his Gophers legacy to be one of a tough and durable player who played hard every play.

“I’ve got to be a leader and I try to lead by example,” Banks said. “I’ve been through a lot of things in my time here. I understand what it takes to get through the season and I just want to pass that on to the younger guys before I’m gone.”