Brandon Banks wants to break Earl Winfield’s record, warns staff they have ‘tough decisions to make’

Photo courtesy: Bob Butrym

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are coming off the best regular season in club history and the CFL’s reigning Most Outstanding Player is blown away by the level of talent in training camp.

“It’s crazy, it’s definitely bringing better and better plays out of me,” said star receiver Brandon Banks. “I was just telling [head coach Orlondo Steinauer] and [co-general manager Shawn Burke] that they got some tough decisions to make because there are some guys out there that have made very big impressions in the last few days.”

The Ticats went 15-3 in 2019 and the offence remained potent regardless of whether Jeremiah Masoli or Dane Evans was at the controls. Banks thinks the receiver group is especially strong as he looks to take some of the younger players under his wing.

“I like the room with the guys that are coming back with Bralon (Addison), (Jaelon) Acklin, Jalin Marshall, and (Marcus) Tucker. I’m ready to work with them and they’re ready to work with me, they show me a lot of support and I’m just here for anything they need from me. I’m excited about the receiving room — especially by the new guys that are there,” said Banks.

Banks is entering his eleventh season in professional football and wants to leave a legacy. When asked if he’ll be returning any punts this year, the six-time all-star was honest about his desire to see action on special teams.

“I want to do it every once in a while, but I just read a stat not too long ago that I’m a couple yards from the leading punt returner. I want to do as much as I can to get that, selfishly, but I want to do whatever the team needs of me. If Frankie (Williams) needed a breather and needed me out there for punt return, I’m willing to go out there, but obviously that’s Frankie’s job — he’s been doing a hell of a job at it.”

A club spokesperson clarified that Banks likely meant to reference the statistic of all-purpose yards, not punt return yards. The native of Raleigh, N.C. is already Hamilton’s all-time leading punt returner having surpassed the legendary Garney Henley midway through the 2019 season.

Banks has 12,959 all-purpose yards, which leaves him almost 2,000 yards shy of recent Canadian Football Hall of Fame inductee Earl Winfield (14,798).

The 33-year-old will need to strike the right balance in 2021, pushing himself to produce yardage while ensuring he doesn’t overwork himself. He recognizes that he’ll need to pick and choose his spots if he hopes to remain healthy and effective through the CFL’s shortened fourteen-game regular season.

“I’m a little bit older now. Obviously, I ain’t got as much gas as I had four or five years ago. You just gotta be smart and if the coach asked me to go out there and punt return for a play, that’s my bread and butter, so I’m gonna go out there and execute.”

John Hodge is a CFL insider and draft analyst who has been covering the league since 2014.