Although he's a standout on the gridiron, Jalen Banks views academics as the most important thing in his life. The Class of 2013 safety cares so much about his grades that he missed meeting with Iowa coaches who recently visited his school.
"I didn't get a chance to see them," the Thornton High (Harvey, IL) High. "I was taking a test."
Banks wasn't slighting the Hawkeye representatives. He's bonded with them.
"The relationship is building," Banks said. "I like talking to Coach (Lester) Erb. Coach (Darrell) Wilson is a good guy. We're getting to know each other and I think we can connect. There are good people up there.
"I'm familiar with the rest of the staff. Their strength and conditioning coach (Chris Doyle) seems to have a good head on his shoulders."
Banks visited Iowa City this spring. He found a comfortable mix of what's important to him.
"Any school that I'm looking at is going to have that balance of football and academics," the 6-foot, 190-pounder said. "I'm going to get an education as well as compete at a high level. What's important are the people within the program. You can have great facilities, but if the people that are in them aren't any good, then what good are the facilities?
"And it's not just the athletic facilities. The academic facilities are just as important. Within those facilities, you want to see how much attention and help you'll get."
Banks, who is considering majors in engineering and architecture, reports scholarship offers from Iowa, Western Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Boston College and Wake Forest. He said Oregon, Purdue and Cincinnati also are recruiting him steadily.
"I'm just taking my time and enjoying it right now," Banks said. "I have in mind at the same time that a decision has to be made sooner or later. I'm going to take my officials. I wasn't going to at first, but I've been told that it's crucial that I take my officials. I want to have time to weigh out things. I get to see who is really interested in me. If they are really interested, they'll wait for me to make a decision."
Banks also will follow advice about an important aspect of the football program.
"The strength and conditioning coach is very important to me," he said. "You're around them more than anybody else. So, you want to make sure you're working with the right guy. After that, it's about the system and how I would fit in there."
Banks said he will visit Oregon, Nebraska and Vanderbilt in the coming months and then revisit places like Iowa. He likes the vibe he got on his first in-person look at the Hawkeyes.
"The players were very attentive and intuitive," Banks said. "They learned from their mistakes pretty well. The coaches got on them, got involved with them when they made mistakes."