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Former Hawk players offer expertise at Banks’ camp

[ 1 ] July 2, 2011 |

Teams only last for so long, but teammates and the memories of what they accomplished together last forever.

That was apparent to anybody who stopped by the Kenyon Practice Facility on the University of Iowa campus Saturday to watch former Iowa quarterback Brad Banks conduct his second annual youth football camp.

Banks was assisted by a number of former Hawkeyes who played during the early years under coach Kirk Ferentz when the Iowa program was rebuilding.

Banks and his cohorts always will be remembered for bringing Iowa back to national prominence.

“It’s a humbling feeling because you see all the great things that are going on right now,” said former running back Jermelle Lewis, who lettered at Iowa from 2002-04. “And it’s a great feeling to know that you’re a part of that, that you helped start something.”

Iowa’s record-setting 2002 team, which finished 11-2 overall and 8-0 in the Big Ten with Banks playing quarterback, was well represented at Saturday’s one-day camp.

In addition to Banks and Lewis, also helping were Banks’ cousin and former receiver C.J. Jones, former all-Big Ten linebacker and current NFL player Abdul Hodge, former tight end Tony Jackson, former defensive lineman Tyler Luebke and former offensive lineman Pete Traynor, among others.

“It’s time for the reunion,” Jones said when reminded that it’s been almost a decade since the 2002 team ran the table in the Big Ten and played in the Orange Bowl.

Jones provided one of the few bright spots in Iowa’s 38-17 loss to Southern California in the 2003 Orange Bowl by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

He still holds the record for the longest kickoff return in the Orange Bowl, although Jones claims that he is being shortchanged.

“It still is (the record), but they be cheating me, man,” Jones said. “It was 101 yards, not a 100. Check the tape.”

Jones played on and off in the NFL for several years after leaving Iowa in 2002. He now coaches high school football in south Florida, which is near where he grew up, and works as a personal trainer.

Jones does all he can to promote the University of Iowa to his players. He wants them to know that it’s an option worth exploring.

“I tell them you can have a great career and have a chance to make it to the big leagues,” Jones said. “I went this route, and I made it. And people told me I wouldn’t make it and stuff life that.

“You’ve got a lot of (former Iowa players) who you would think wouldn’t make it, make it, people who walked on the team and stuff like that. This is the best opportunity you can possibly have, I think.”

Lewis was the first so-called blue-chip recruit to sign with Iowa under Ferentz in 2000. Lewis grew up in Connecticut, but he now considers Iowa his home, more specifically Cedar Rapids.

“The East Coast is too fast,” Lewis said. “I like to sit down and chill out and do what I want to do. And the people (in Iowa) are genuine. When they say they’re going to take care of you, they take care of you. You’re not going to get a lot of that on the East Coast. Now don’t get me wrong; I did make an attempt to go back to Connecticut. But there was nothing out there for me.”

Injuries prevented Lewis from having a chance to make the NFL, but he played semi-pro bowl until recently.

He now is getting started as a personal trainer and also coaches football.

Lewis said he has no regrets about how his career ended at Iowa. He’s too busy helping to raise his 4-year-old son, Keon, and moving on to the next chapter in his life.

“I’ve met a lot of good people and I’ve been an influence on a lot of young guys in Cedar Rapids that I probably would have never been able to meet if I had went pro,” Lewis said. “So life would’ve been a lot different for me.

“But I’m satisfied with the experience I went through and all the people I’ve come to know just in the local area.”

Lewis met current Iowa running back Marcus Coker for the first time Saturday. The 230-pound Coker posed for pictures with some of the campers and also introduced himself to the former Iowa players.

“He’s a monster,” Lewis said of Coker, who will be a sophomore this fall.

Hodge, meanwhile, jumped at the opportunity to help Banks with the camp.

“Brad’s a good guy and he does a lot of great things for the community, and I was happy to give back,” said Hodge, who will become an NFL free agent whenever the current labor dispute is resolved.

Hodge also takes pride in knowing that he helped lay the foundation at Iowa. The football program still hadn’t turned the corner when Hodge, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., signed with Iowa in February 2001.

However, by the time Hodge left, Iowa had played in five bowl games, beginning with the 2001 Alamo Bowl victory over Texas Tech when Hodge was a true freshman.

“There were a ton of great moments, but the 2001 Alamo Bowl was the start of new era,” Hodge said.

Hodge credits Iowa’s success to having the right person in charge.

“It starts at the top with Kirk Ferentz,” Hodge said. “He’s one of the best human beings that I’ve ever come in contact with.”

It also helps to have talented players, which Banks proved to be during his incredible rise from backup quarterback in 2001 to Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2002.

Banks still plays competitive football as the starting quarterback for the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena League.

He led his team to a victory Friday night and then arrived in Iowa City about 1 a.m. Saturday.

“I got a little rest and jumped up,” Banks said. “I’ve got some sleep planned for later.”

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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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