Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 2, 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 63

16 NOV. 2, 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY ANDREW MENTOCK G rowing up in the Bay Area in Northern California, Aaron Banks knew very little about Notre Dame and said he didn't learn of the world renowned university until he was nearing mid- dle school. This is why, at least in hindsight, it should have seemed like a long shot that the four-star offensive lineman would end up with the Irish. Even during the early part of his senior year of high school at El Cerrito High School, he expressed uncertainty. "They kept preaching, 'Take a visit, take a visit,'" Banks said. "I was like, 'I don't know. It's in the middle of nowhere in Indiana.'" Other programs such as USC, Cal, Oregon, Tennessee and Michigan each heavily pursued the services of the 6-6 offensive lineman, who was listed anywhere from 310 to 340 pounds while also being nimble enough that his high school coaches felt compelled to play him at defensive end. "We wanted him to play nose tackle, but he was so athletic that he was able to play D-end and come off the edge," said El Cerrito head coach Jacob Rincon, who was the defensive coordinator at the time. Banks was so impressive that Wol- verines head coach Jim Harbaugh even went as far as becoming part of the chain gang at one of Banks' high school games against St. Mary's in Albany, Calif. "It was an away game and they were looking for somebody to do chains, and no parents volunteered," Rincon said. "But Harbaugh was there just to recruit, and they asked him if he'd be willing to do it and he stepped in and did it. He did a great job." Despite all of the influential figures trying to pull him to different college programs, once Banks set foot on the Notre Dame campus and spent time with the offensive linemen, his per- spective on the university changed. "A big part of it was just the broth- erhood between the offensive line," he said. "Some people call us 'The Herd' because we're always together, we're always doing things together. "The guys are just so close, and that was just something I wanted to be a part of. Plus, the people here are just so nice." Less than five months after his first visit, he was beating his fellow Irish early enrollees in Madden from a Notre Dame dorm room. Banks' impact on the field came sooner than expected when senior captain and starting left guard Alex Bars went down halfway through last season. Banks started the first game of his Notre Dame career at left tackle against Navy on Oct. 27, 2018. "I knew at some point in the season my number would be called if some- thing happened," he said after the sea- son. "Unfortunately, Alex Bars went down, and I had to step up, so I did. I had [Bars] there every day. I couldn't have had a better role model." After getting through last season, his goal has been to show more con- sistency this year, something one could argue he's failed to do at times, but he was also set back during the summer due to a broken foot. When Banks first heard the news that his injury would require surgery, he was bewildered. "You're kind of pissed off," he said. "You're like, 'Are you serious? Sur- gery? Wow. You sure? Is there an- other way to do this? Are you sure this is the best option?' No football player wants to go under the knife. "But I had a speed of recovery, the staff helped me along the way and put me in the right position to get back as fast as I can." He was back in August for fall camp and his play has become con- sistently better during the season, with his best game up to this point coming in week seven versus a long- time Irish rival. Against the USC Trojans, Banks — along with fellow guard Tommy Kraemer — played with aggression, asserted a dominant push and re-es- tablished the line of scrimmage four or five yards down the field all game. He was also solid in pass protection. "Physically, Kraemer and Banks were doing a really good job on their two big guys inside, which those two have been very difficult with offen- sive lines," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "The physicality and the size of Banks and Kraemer really paid off for us and we were able to get some combinations going because they were able to hold their point." The one downside of playing ma- jor college football and being so far away from home is that he doesn't have the time or flexibility to con- tact his family as much, especially his brother Frank, who is two years younger. "He had a great impact on his brother," Rincon said. "You could tell when [Aaron] had left, that it really hurt Frank a lot. I think that Frank looked at his brother, Aaron as a fa- ther, role model." Rincon said much of this stems from Banks' maturity. He always worked hard, knew how to balance time-de- manding sports such as football and basketball while still performing well in the classroom and showing respect and admiration for his teachers. Banks is not the lone Division I foot- ball player to come from El Cerrito in recent years. Yet many teachers, even those who detest football, are sure to watch Banks suit up for Notre Dame each Saturday because of the impact he had on them as a student. "It's Aaron Banks," Rincon said. "They loved him when he was at El Cerrito, and they want to see them be successful." ✦ Here For THe BroTHerHood California native Aaron Banks wasn't sure about going to college in Indiana, but that changed once he visited Notre Dame and met his future teammates Banks — a 6-6, 325-pound junior from Alameda, Calif. — started the last six games of 2018 as the "next man up" when Alex Bars was injured, and he has started every game at left guard this season. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Nov. 2, 2019