Labour Day has done wonders for Brandon Banks’ receiving career.
The quick and diminutive Hamilton receiver reached a milestone 3,000 career receiving yards in the Tiger-Cats’ 42-28 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on Monday. Most notably, though, is that more than half of them have been earned since last year’s Labour Day match-up.
Banks made a 35-yard catch-and-run late in the first half to cross that marker and then capped that same Ticat drive with a 19-yard touchdown reception. He finished the game with nine catches for 135 yards and two TDs.
“I’m just playing football – what I’ve been doing since I was five years old,” said the five-foot-seven, 150-pound Kansas State product.
“I’m just getting great opportunities. We’ve got a great quarterback that’s just feeding me the ball and we’ve got a great offensive scheme that coach June Jones is calling and I’m just the recipient of it.”
The six-year CFL veteran, nicknamed “Speedy”, has been known more as a return specialist (2015 CFL Most Outstanding Special Teams Player), but Banks’ receiving numbers got a boost last year when June Jones took over as Hamilton head coach from Kent Austin.
Jones made his coaching debut last Labour Day, and Banks immediately made an impact as the game’s leading receiver with 98 yards on six catches and a touchdown.
Up to that point in the season, Banks had only eight catches for 52 yards and one touchdown as Hamilton went 0-8 to start the 2017 campaign under Austin.
Under Jones, he became busier on offence, leading the league after Labour Day in targets (tied at 87), receptions (tied at 59), and TD receptions (seven), and was second in receiving yards (959).
His total 1,011 yards on 67 catches and eight TDs in 2017, almost doubled his previous best season of 529 yards in 2014.
This season, he’s already at 63 catches for 880 yards and five TDs with eight games left to play.
“I watched practice for two or three weeks before I got the head job,” said Jones, who re-signed Banks this winter.
“I’m a speed guy and he was our fastest player. I went back and looked at him playing for the Redskins (Banks was with Washington 2010-12 before coming to Hamilton) and I said I gotta get him on the field, so he plays everywhere now for us ? He’s making plays in the slot. He’s doing everything. He’s a big-time gamer.”
Early in the first quarter, Banks moved into second place on the all-time Ticats’ list for combined yards, passing Tommy Grant (10,213 yards from 1956-68), after starting the game with a 12-yard punt return and a 12-yard reception.
Banks finished the game with 197 combined yards for a total 10,387, still a long way to go before catching Earl Winfield, who had 14,798 combined yards in his 11 seasons with the Ticats (1987-97).