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Banks returns to where he started

Long before his runnerup finish for the 2002 Heisman Trophy, quarterback Brad Banks led the Hinds Community College Eagles to the 2000 state championship. He returned to Raymond on Wednesday for Brad Banks Day. (FileThe Vicksburg Post)

[4/3/03]RAYMOND Long before Brad Banks became a household name in the world of college football, he roamed the sidelines of Joe Renfroe Stadium as a wide receiver playing backup quarterback.

Long before his trip to New York and his second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy, he was leading the Hinds Eagles through the freezing rain and muck to a sixth state championship.

On Wednesday, the standout Iowa quarterback who literally came out of nowhere to register one of the most amazing seasons in college football memory, was honored at the school that gave him his shot.

Wednesday was Brad Banks Day at Hinds and he mingled among students and faculty before receiving several plaques commemorating his feats at Iowa. His jersey was also framed.

“I wanted to come back and get reminded of where I started from,” said Banks, a Belle Glade, Fla., native who originally signed with Central Florida out of high school. “I’ll never forget it. This place played a very important role for me.”

As a freshman at Hinds, Banks suffered a deep thigh contusion that kept him from taking reps at quarterback. David Page, who starred at Northwest Rankin, started every game that season, while Banks was shifted to wide receiver. Although he had never played that position before, he fit in perfectly.

“He was such a good athlete that we had to have him on the field somewhere,” said Hinds’ assistant coach Dot Murphy, who coaches wide receivers. “With him being a quarterback, he already knew the routes and knew what to do as a receiver.”

Teamed with ex-Vicksburg High standout Bunkie Perkins, Banks excelled at receiver, but he quickly assumed the starting QB role as a sophomore. That season, he helped Hinds to the state championship, having suffered only one loss in the regular season.

Central Florida backed off, as did several Southeastern Conference schools who HCC coach Gene Murphy said, “were probably second-guessing their decision.” North Carolina State and Iowa recruited Banks heavily and he ended up with the Hawkeyes.

It was the same story in Iowa City, though.

“They had like four or five quarterbacks when I got there,” said the soft-spoken, unassuming Banks. “I knew I had to work even harder.”

He sat out his junior year, then embarked on a record-setting senior season that landed him as a Heisman finalist. He threw for 2,573 yards and 26 touchdowns in leading the Hawkeyes to the Orange Bowl against Heisman winner Carson Palmer and Southern California.

The Hawkeyes lost, but Banks’ stock rose so high in his one season of playing, that he is expected to be picked in this year’s NFL draft.

“I got a chance the other day to watch some of our games,” Banks said. “I never got a chance to watch the TV versions, only breaking down film. It was crazy watching how much fun we were having out there.”

Banks is quick to shift all the praise to his offensive linemen, receivers and running backs.

“They did all the work,” he said. “I was just the icing on the cake.”

Dot Murphy said she expected such an answer from him.

“He’s so humble and thankful for what he has,” she said. “… He would never say that he was the one that made the impact on the program. He would give credit to the offensive line, or somebody else. But take him out of the offense and what do you have? He was the glue that made them click.”