Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 14, 2020

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

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16 NOV. 14, 2020 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TODD D. BURLAGE A s a veteran fitness trainer near San Francisco in Antioch, Ca- lif., Marcus Malu — owner and operator of Malu Fitness — knows what an elite high school offensive lineman needs to look like when heading off to college. And with no disrespect intended, Malu straight-up warned then-El Cer- rito High School senior Aaron Banks that the pudgy prodigy didn't pass the eye test of an incoming and elite college offensive lineman. The player and trainer had only three months to make things right before Banks was set to begin classes at Notre Dame as an early enrollee in January 2017. "I told him, 'You're going to Notre Dame — have you seen these guys there? They look like monsters, and you're not there yet,'" Malu recalled of trying to reinvent Banks under tight time constraints. "Aaron is so athletic and so talented, but his body was going to have to match his skills at the next level." The renovation regimen for Banks included five and sometimes six two- a-day workouts each week — one early morning and another in the eve- ning — with the weight training from Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays paired with the cardio and agility work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Malu's plan also included strict nu- trition restrictions that required Banks to eat nothing but healthy foods Mon- day through Friday while allowing his project player to take some dietary "shortcuts" during the weekend. Under Malu's workout plan, Banks dropped 30 pounds in those three months and arrived at Notre Dame as a still massive but more toned freshman at 6-5 and 325 pounds, a dream build for a college strength coach to mold. "He had some work to do when I got him, but man, he worked his tail off," recalled Malu, who in addition to Banks also trained elite Alabama run- ning back Najee Harris and budding Notre Dame sophomore defensive star Isaiah Foskey, among many oth- ers in the Bay Area. "Aaron cleaned up his eating and he never missed a workout. His hard work paid off." Even as the biggest player on his team then and now, Banks was so gifted athletically in high school that he played some seven-on-seven foot- ball at El Cerrito, a game designed to showcase smaller and shiftier skill players, not 300-pound linemen. Willing to try whatever was asked, Banks lined up at tight end and middle linebacker during seven-on- seven ball, and he played both posi- tions effectively. "I think having a childhood and playing a lot of basketball through high school helped me have pretty good feet," Banks explained. That blend of raw athleticism with a strong football acumen have served Banks well during his three-plus sea- sons at Notre Dame. After redshirting and playing Irish scout team in 2017, Banks then backed up starting right tackle Rob- ert Hainsey in 2018 before he moved to starting left guard later that sea- son when senior Alex Bars suffered a season-ending knee injury. Building on his seamless and suc- cessful work replacing Bars in the final six games of 2018, Banks locked down the full-time opening-day starting left guard spot in each of the last two years. But handed an unexpected lineup pinch earlier this season against Florida State, the Irish coaches asked Banks to slide over one spot from his familiar left guard position after an eye injury sidelined starting left tackle Liam Eichenberg. With Banks filling in at tackle for 19 plays and four possessions against the Seminoles, the Irish piled up 170 QUICK CHANGE ARTIST Senior Aaron Banks poses matchup problems for opposing defenders regardless of whether he lines up at offensive guard or tackle

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