When Brad Banks decided he wanted to play football in Iowa again, Iowa Barnstormers coach John Gregory was more than willing to give him a chance.
The Arena Football League’s Barnstormers announced Monday they have signed Banks, who was an all-American quarterback at Iowa and runner-up to Carson Palmer for the 2002 Heisman Trophy.
“He was such a great player,” Gregory said. “He was second in the Heisman Trophy, which speaks very highly. I worked him out to make sure he’s fit and to see what his skills were, and he did a really good job.
“He’s in great shape, he’s smart and accurate with the football. I was real pleased with him.”
Banks, 30, played five seasons in the Canadian Football League after leaving Iowa. Last year, he ran a quarterback clinic in Palm Beach, Fla., but he said he still has the urge to play.
“I saw it as an opportunity to play and I know that I wanted to play,” Banks said. “The wheels of time are turning, so I figured I’d give it a shot and see what happens. I’m just happy about it. It looks like it’s a good situation.”
When he decided he wanted to give arena football a try, he decided he wanted to return to Iowa and contacted Gregory.
“I love it there and I see it as home,” Banks said. “The Hawkeye family is there. It’s an exciting thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way, because I knew I wanted to play arena football and get back on the field.”
As a senior at Iowa, Banks threw for 2,573 yards and 26 touchdowns while helping the Hawkeyes to an 11-2 record and a share of the 2002 Big Ten title.
The 5-foot-11 Banks was the Associated Press player of the year, but wasn’t drafted by an NFL team.
He was given a tryout with the Washington Redskins but was cut, then played five seasons in the CFL.
Asked if not getting much of a NFL opportunity was hard to take, Banks said it was, but said he’s used to having to prove himself.
“Sometimes it goes like that for some people, and I happened to be one of them,” he said. “I’ve always had to work for everything I get. Sometimes you have to take different routes, and I’m fine with that.”
Banks is the fourth quarterback signed by the Barnstormers, whose camp opens on Feb. 20, and he has no assurances of how he will fit in.
He joins Bryan Lee-Lauduski, who was a member of the Barnstormers in 2009; B.J. Hall, who played with the Dallas Vigilantes last season; and Matt Bassuener, who played in the Indoor Football League in 2010.
“We have a pretty good group of quarterbacks coming in,” Gregory said. “I think it’ll be very competitive, but I think (Banks) will be right there in the mix.”
Last year’s quarterback, Ryan Vena, has signed with the Philadelphia Soul, one of five new teams in the AFL.
The league has added Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Georgia, New Orleans, and San Jose, while Bossier City and Alabama have dropped out. Overall, the AFL has gone from 15 teams to 18.
The season’s length also has expanded, going from 16 games to 18. The Barnstormers’ season starts March 19 at Pittsburgh.
After going 7-9 last year in the first season since the change from arenafootball2 to the AFL, Gregory has signed 24 new players among a 34-man roster. One point of emphasis was to add size, but the newcomers also include receiver Larry Beavers, who returned a kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown in a 2010 preseason game with the New Orleans Saints.
“We felt a year ago, we were undertalented,” Gregory said. “We felt we were mismatched. Our goal was to change that. We went out and scouted NFL camps and looked for players competitive in camps. Most of our linemen we signed were either in NFL camps or NFL mini-camps. We upgraded there a lot.
“I didn’t think our pass rush last year was good as it needed be, so we went out and got some pass rushers. I think we needed to improve our secondary, so we did the same thing with that. We have a lot of explosive athletes.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football