Brandon “Speedy” Banks isn’t returning to Hamilton simply because the Tiger-Cats re-signed quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but that sure didn’t hurt.
“Yeah we talked about it,” Banks confirmed yesterday at Tim Hortons Field after the Tiger-Cats announced what 3DownNation had announced two days earlier: the free agent has re-signed, inking a one-year deal for 2018.
“He asked my input and I asked what he was going to do. It wouldn’t have been my ultimate decision because of him, but it made it an easier decision.”
The return of head coach June Jones also made it an easier decision.
“Those two guys pretty well elevated my career last year,” said Banks, who has 33 touchdowns, scored five different ways (rushing, receiving, plus kickoff, punt and missed field goal returns), in 71 career games.
Banks, one of the most productive (11 touchdowns) and exciting returners in Ticat, and CFL, history became an every-down receiver after Jones took over coaching the team, as Masoli used him not only to stretch the field, but to sustain drives. His fleet presence, and that of the emerging Jalen Saunders, gave opposing defences the willies and created open spaces on the field for other receivers.
Banks, who had taken a significant pay cut (reportedly$50,000) to return to the Ticats last season, had 1011 receiving yards in 2017, all but 59 of those from Labour Day on. In the second half of the season he led the league lead in targets, receptions and touchdown receptions and was second in receiving yards as the Tiger-Cats had three 1000-yard receivers for the first time in franchise history.
“I wanted to be here,” he said of entering his sixth season in Ticat livery. “At the end of the day, home is home. It’s all I know in the CFL. I love Hamilton and the situation was right. The Ticats gave me an opportunity I like, so I took advantage of it.
“I don’t want to change anything. I want to be here with ‘Soli and the other guys that I’ve known here since Day 1.”
But Banks has changed something, and referred to it yesterday. He’s more mature as a receiver— getting all those game and practice reps made him sharper, and his routes more crisp and dependable—and says he’s also far more mature as a person.
Like Masoli, there was a time, that it didn’t seem likely Banks would see six years as a Tiger-Cat, let alone become one of the potential 2018 free agents the Ticats most urgently wanted to sign.
There has been no question about Banks’ competitiveness and singular return skills–he was the league’s 2015 special teams player of the year–but in 2016 he was late reporting to training camp because of family issues. Later that season he was suspended by the CFL for two games after testing positive for MDA, known street-wise as ‘Sally’.
“I’ve matured as a person,” Banks said Friday, not backing away from the subject. “Everyone learns by their mistakes. I’m not a perfect individual. I’ve been through a lot and I’ve learned by my mistakes.”
That was a notion heartily seconded by Kent Austin, Banks’ head coach his first four-and-a-half seasons here, and as vice-president of football ops the man ultimately responsible for re-signing him.
“One-hundred per cent,” Austin said of Banks maturing as a player, but moreover as a person. “I’ve walked with Brandon through most of that. All of us here see what a lot of other people don’t see, which is his heart.
“It’s easy for people to sling arrows when they don’t know the person: when you don’t see where he’s come from, what he’s overcome…and where he’s headed. We’ve always seen that in him.”
Banks is 30, and has absorbed significant pounding as a returner, but Austin said that while the organization took that into account, he feels Banks’ fast-twitch body type doesn’t degrade as quickly as some other’s, and that “he’s still performing at a very high level.”
Banks will join Masoli, Saunders and several other CFLers in the San Francisco Bay Area for off-season pitch-and-catch workouts.
“I’m just waiting for the call to come, and I’ll go right out there,” he said.”
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