Family drives backup hope

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Someone is going to have to emerge from the pack to become the Winnipeg Blue Bombers backup quarterback.

If history is an indication, Brad Banks will be that man.

The 26-year-old is currently battling Russ Michna and Mike Quinn for the backup role at Bomber training camp. Incumbent starter Kevin Glenn has a firm grip on the No. 1 spot.

Banks, referred to by some as the steal of the Ottawa Renegades dispersal draft when he went 13th overall, should know how to step up, because he sure had to fight to get attention growing up in Belle Glade, Fla.

When his grandmother, Estelle Banks, died in November 2002, her obituary listed 131 grandchildren, 309 great grandchildren and 91 great-great grandchildren.

"She had, like, 14 kids, and then each of them had, like, 12, 13, 14, 22 -- all kind of numbers," said Banks.

'GOTTA EAT'

There are 13 children in Banks' immediate family, and he is the second-youngest. For some strange reason, though, Banks isn't a non-stop talker who is always trying to be the focus of the room.

"I'm pretty laid back, but don't let it fool you. Do not let it fool you," he said, repeating the words slowly and with emphasis. "You gotta eat. Where I come from, they'll take your food. Trust me."

Banks said Belle Glade isn't exactly full of white picket fences but added it's not the "straight gutter," either. Despite the potential for negative influences, his extended family always stuck together and made sure the kids stayed on the straight and narrow.

"Everybody's close, and it's all love," said Banks. "There's no kind of crazy stuff going on in our family. We're all church-going people."

That doesn't mean they weren't tough on him. Aside from learning how to eat quickly or go hungry, Banks had to perform on the football field or face the wrath.

"You can't come home without touching the football or making a tackle, because they're going to ride you -- the whole family," he said. "It gets serious. I mean, it goes to the heart. It's personal."

That peer pressure sure worked, because Banks went on to star at the University of Iowa and was the 2002 Heisman Trophy runner-up behind Carson Palmer, now the Cincinnati Bengals starting quarterback.

The extended Banks family also spawned Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin and B.C. Lions defensive back Korey Banks -- both of whom are Brad's cousins.

It's also helped Brad appreciate his family a little more.

"In college I didn't even think about family," he said. "But now, in the past few years, I've lost two grandmothers and some close cousins.

"You realize there's a lot more things important in life."

But he still has a job to do. All he wants to is take what he learned from two seasons in Ottawa as the backup to Kerry Joseph and get better in Winnipeg.

Head coach Doug Berry says Banks has all the tools to be a solid CFL quarterback but adds the young pivot must show a better understanding of the Bombers offence.

Banks, however, wouldn't talk specifically about trying to win the backup job, and we weren't about to push him.

We'll let his family do that.


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