Iowa Banks on talented quarterback

Brian Stensaas

Despite a national-best 167.8 pass efficiency rating, 2,617 yards of total offense and a Big Ten-leading 23 touchdown completions so far this season, Iowa quarterback Brad Banks figured it was a trick.

He thought his friends were playing a joke on him earlier this week when they told him he was being mentioned on ESPN for the Heisman Trophy.

And even now that he knows for a fact his name is being thrown around as college football’s top player, it hasn’t changed his humble attitude.

“I really don’t get a chance to think about that,” Banks said. “It would be a big thing for all of us if I do win, though. I’ve truly worked hard; all of us have.”

The sixth-ranked Hawkeyes (10-1, 7-0 Big Ten) come to Minneapolis on Saturday with the chance to clinch at least a share of the conference crown. That will happen with a win, and all that stands in the way is Minnesota (7-3, 3-3).

One of two teams currently ranked in the top 10 that were not nationally ranked at the beginning of the season, Iowa’s success has come thanks to many positions, but none more convincing than at quarterback.

Banks was tabbed as Iowa’s starting quarterback for this season upon the graduation of Kyle McCann. It was an easy decision, seeing as how Banks played in 10 games last season and threw for 582 yards in relief of McCann. However, the senior signal caller’s college career has been anything but assumed.

After accumulating more than 5,000 yards of total offense in high school, the Belle Glade, Fla., native originally committed to play college ball at Florida. But a missed deadline for a test kept him out of the Swamp.

He thought about Florida State, but the Seminoles were out of scholarships. Eventually, Banks enrolled at Central Florida and redshirted his freshman year before academics forced him out of school.

Banks wound up at Hinds Junior College in Mississippi, where he not only enhanced his football skills but also learned to get it done in the classroom.

“Academics became more important there,” he said. “It was just me and the college, not a whole lot else going on. I had a lot of time on my hands and used that for school.”

He started out at Hinds as a receiver but quickly became the team’s top quarterback. Then in January 2001, his trail turned toward Iowa City where the only problem Banks was worried about was the weather.

To date, the conditions haven’t bothered the southern man at all. He calls the snow “pretty” and feels at home.

Everyone around Banks was glad to welcome him in.

“He’s impressed us every step of the way,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He looks a lot more comfortable and continues to improve. He works hard and takes every experience and learns from it. That’s all you can ask for.”

Banks’ one bad outing – and the team’s for that matter – came Sept. 14 against Iowa State. He fumbled twice in the second half, leading to 14 Cyclones points en route to a 36-31 win over the Hawkeyes.

Two weeks later against Penn State, Banks rebounded better than anyone could have expected, throwing for 261 yards and four touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime.

It’s been nothing short of dominant play since then. Banks hopes his impressive showing this season will catch the eye of a few scouts.

“It’s always been my dream to be in the NFL,” Banks said. “I want to go after that.

“I’ve been playing football a long time. I always play to win, and this team doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s a blessing to be a part of something like this.”

And that’s no joke.

Brian Stensaas covers football and welcomes comments at [email protected]