Brandon Banks built relationship with Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons while playing for Ticats

Photo courtesy: Kowalski

Brandon Banks signed with the Toronto Argonauts this past weekend, which makes a lot of sense given the way in which he and general manager Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons built a relationship while they were on opposite sides of an intense Ontario rivalry.

“I had great conversations, especially with Pinball. Over the years I’ve built a relationship with Pinball from afar being on the Ticats side,” said Banks. “He always went out of his way to speak to me so that obviously meant a lot to me. We exchanged numbers and then during the process of signing he always kept it honest and positive.”

“He’s a very, very positive guy. That’s the kind of people I like to be around. We had some great conversations, he was just excited to have me over there on the Toronto side. I told him how I felt and where I was at in my career and the things I still wanted to do and we both agreed on certain things and obviously we made it happen.”

Banks and Clemons have a lot in common. Not only are both diminutive in stature — the former is five-foot-seven, while the latter is five-foot-six — but they have each dominated in multiple facets of the Canadian game at a number of positions. They have also both been named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player as Banks captured the award in 2019 and Clemons won it in 1990.

Photo courtesy: Toronto Argonauts

The nine-year CFL veteran has spent his entire career with the Ticats, dressing for 111 regular season games in black and gold. He still has a tough time imagining how it will feel to wear double blue in 2022, though he suspects he will be ready to do so come the start of training camp.

“It really still hasn’t hit me. It ain’t gonna hit me until I actually walk into the building. When I actually signed on the dotted line it actually hit me like, ‘Wow, I’m gearing up to play for another team.’ It is what it is. I’m ready for the change,” said Banks.

The 34-year-old was not named an East Division all-star in 2021, snapping a six-year streak that dated all the way back to 2014. He also posted his lowest receiving yards total (474) since 2016 and his lowest number of receiving touchdowns (two) since 2015, which has caused some critics to question whether or not he can still play at an elite level.

“I wouldn’t really say I have to prove anything to anybody, but I’m just trying to go out there and win a championship for myself and for the Toronto organization now. Obviously, I do want to prove to people that I can still play — I don’t have no doubt about it, I still can play,” said Banks.

“I’m going to have doubters out there, but that’s OK. I’ve always had doubters out there. It is what it is. I’m still going to go out there and continue to be me and hopefully stay healthy so I can show y’all that I can still be Speedy B.”

Toronto also added former Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ running back Andrew Harris in free agency, who will turn 35 in April. Banks sees himself in a similar position to the three-time Grey Cup champion as they are both award-winning veterans looking to prove that they still have some gas in the tank.

“I’m excited to play with a high-calibre guy like him, he’s a championship-winning guy. He’s pretty much in the same position I am, we’re both trying to prove things. Pretty much the whole team, I’m ready to play with anybody. I’m ready to bring my leadership over there and just try to fit in with them guys over there and just try to help as much as I can.”

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.