Good-natured guy happy to see records fall
Banks not Greene with envy as record may fall
By Marc Morehouse
Tavian Banks breaks loose on a long run during a 1997 game against Illinois.
IOWA CITY — No, Tavian Banks isn’t one of those miserly athletes who clings to his records like gold doubloons.
Just as he was with the Hawkeyes, Banks is an easygoing guy, lighthearted and quick with a laugh. He’s actually a little surprised his season rushing record has stood as long as it has at the University of Iowa. He won’t wince when or if (but most likely when) Shonn Greene breaks that record.
“Oh no, I’ve held it, what, 10 years now or whatever it is,” Banks said Tuesday. “I’m glad someone is breaking it. I’m not a real stickler about record holding. It’s fine with me.”
Banks and Greene have become tied to the hip in the Iowa record books this fall.
Greene needs 106 yards to match Banks’ season record of 1,691 yards set in 1997. That’s not the only stat where their paths cross. Greene needs two more touchdowns to equal Banks’ season record of 17 rushing TDs, also set in ’97. With last week’s 211 yards, Greene joined Banks and Sedrick Shaw (1995) as the only Iowa running backs to top 200 in a game twice.
Banks has kept an eye on Greene’s season from his home in Naperville, Ill. Banks, 34, has been sports performance director at Velocity Sports Performance about a year and a half. Before this, he was assistant running backs coach at Louisville for two seasons (2006-07) under then-coach Bobby Petrino.
Instead of coaching running backs, he’s now helping to make them. At Velocity, he works with athletes from age 8 to 18, everyone from beginners to professionals, listing some Arena Football Leaguers as clients.
“I want to keep this growing,” Banks said. “Naperville is a great football area. There are a lot of great high school programs in about a 30-mile radius. It’s a very football-oriented community.”
He called his time in coaching “rewarding,” but the difference is the hours.
“It was really, really, really super-long hours,” Banks said. “But it’s a lot of fun. It’s kind of the same high you get when you’re playing. That was good. With coaching, you never know where you’re going to be.”
Banks hasn’t met Greene and hasn’t been to Iowa City in eight years, he said. He was supposed to coach at a camp this summer, but most of Iowa’s sports camps were canceled because of the floods.
Rest assured, he knows all about Greene.
“He’s a totally different back than I was,” said Banks, who, at 220 pounds, did his damage with speed and moves. “He’s more of a power back, someone who’ll get 5, 10, 15 yards. He’s a moves-the-chains type of a running back.”
One thing the running backs do share is that they take advantage of opportunity.
Greene worked his way back from academic difficulties and just now, as a 23-year-old, fourth-year junior, is getting his first real shot at the job. Banks waited patiently for three seasons behind Shaw, Iowa’s career rushing leader.
“I learned a lot being behind Sedrick Shaw,” said Banks, who’s fourth on Iowa’s career list. “But I was definitely looking forward to my senior year and being the starter. I had a lot of games where I saw some time, but I didn’t get as much playing time as I would’ve liked to have had.
“But I always knew I would have my senior year, so I concentrated on school. I wasn’t too worried about it, but you just never know what’s going to happen at running back.”
Banks knows that all too well.
During his second season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1999, Banks caught a pass in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons.
He took a hit from Falcons defensive back Ray Buchanan while trying to keep his balance on the sideline. Banks’ knee was blown out, tearing three ligaments — ACL, PCL and LCL. He also suffered a torn hamstring and a stretched nerve.
“All in one hit,” he said. “That kind of took me out of everything.”
He suffered from drop foot, affecting his ability to raise his foot at the ankle, and walked around in a supportive boot and with a cane for nine months. Of course, this was on top of a broken ankle that took seven pins and a plate when he was a prep at Bettendorf High School.
Banks’ knee still doesn’t straighten or bend all the way in or out.
He knows running back is a “never know” position, with 11 defenders trying to crush you on any given play. He has the scars to prove it.
“It was horrific,” he said. “I did a lot of rehab and made it back for a couple years with the (New Orleans) Saints, doing some special teams stuff. I was never the same back after that injury.”
Banks knows Greene’s situation. He knows Greene will likely have NFL options after this season. Banks’ advice is to carefully weigh the options, because you “never know.”
“If I were Shonn Greene, I’d definitely do my research on things. I’m sure he’ll be projected pretty high,” Banks said. “He plays in the Big Ten. A back having 100 yards a week, that’s definitely what the NFL is looking for. I’d definitely be doing my research and talking to people.”
Banks was projected to go in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft. He went in the fourth.
“The draft is unpredictable, but (Greene) will have a guesstimate of what round he should be going in,” said Banks, who was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletics Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
Banks will be watching this weekend when the Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota. If Greene holds form, he’ll gain 100 yards for the 12th straight game and will be looking Banks’ record in the face. Plus, there’s the bowl game.
This is more when than if, but that’s OK. Banks isn’t hanging on to the past.
“I’m happy for Greene,” he said. “I hope he gets everything.”