For three years, Nate Banks has been bordering on being a starter in the Rebel secondary and has played an important role on special teams and as the third cornerback in the Rebel rotation.
He accepted his role as a "learning experience," but dreamed of the day when the left corner position would be his.
This spring, he inherited the job after four-year starter Travis Johnson graduated, and with it added responsibility.
"I have much more responsbility and accountability than I had in the past," said the soft-spoken Banks. "It's something I've wanted for a long time, but it is much more difficult. I've always worked hard, but when you are a starter you take it upon yourself to work beyond what is required of you.
"I spend a lot more time studying film and working on my techniques on my own. I have a deeper sense of not wanting to let the team down as a starter. I've come to find out it's something every starter puts on himself and feels."
But with the extra effort Nate has gained a sense of calm and confidence that he lacked before.
"I'm more at ease now, my confidence is way up. The reason is because I am more sure of myself and more prepared when I get on the field," he explained. "When you take extra time to prepare and you know what you are supposed to do, it's amazing how much more relaxed and sure of yourself you become."
Nate has seen a steady progression in his productivity this spring due to his new mental approach.
"Now, I am playing to make plays rather than playing not to make a mistake," said Banks, a 5-11, 180-pounder with 40 speed in the mid to high 4.3s. "I've always had the phsyical tools, but I was missing the boat becasue I was just trying to take care of my position and I didn't have a good grasp of the whole defense.
"This spring I started catching on to the concepts of the whole defense and how I fit into the scheme. I know where my help is coming from and what I'm supposed to do in every situation. Now it's more a matter of letting my natural ability take over and trusting my teammates to do their part. For instance, I know where my safety help is coming from or when the outside linebacker is supposed to have the flat, or whatever. In the past, I've had a good idea of all of that, but I was still more concerned with my own position. Now, I see the big picture which makes the little picture easier to produce in."
Banks is not claiming to be a finished product, there is still some glossing and polishing to do, but he is much further along than he has ever been in his career.
"Oh, there's still more for me to learn technique-wise and scheme-wise, but I've finally got a grasp of the foundation and where I fit into everything. That has made a huge difference in my performance," he evaluated. "I made more plays this spring than I have in previous years. Repetition and responsibility are two good teachers."
His offseason goals are fairly basic. He has the same ones as every Rebel on the squad.
"I'd like to get a little bigger, a lot stronger and faster. I've had a couple of hamstring injuries in my career and don't feel as quick as I did two years ago," he continued. "I think my hams are a little tight. I need to loosen them up in the offseason and work on my speed and quickness harder. I don't necessarily gain a lot of weight, but I want to gain a lot of strength."
The next step for Nate is to become what every corner dreams of - being a "lock down" corner. Being able to take on any receiver he faces and essentially shut him down.
"That's what every corner strives for - to gain that type of skill and reputation," he said. "I'm confident I have the physical ability to do that. The final step is to gain the mental strength to do it. I'm working on that."
Nate is also a big part of the Rebel special teams, but that's nothing new to him. He was the outside gunner on last year's punt coverage team and will continue to handle that duty.
"That's a big responsibility too, but I'm used to that and am comfortable in that role," stated Banks. "Gunners are responsible for containment and making quick tackles before those speedsters get up a head of steam. We also have to down the pooch punts deep in the opposing team's territory. Those kinds of plays change the momentum of a game and are critical."
Nate Banks is now the number one left corner in the Rebel defense. For him, September can't get here quick enough.
"I'm ready for it. It's been a long time coming, but it's finally my turn and I plan on making the most of it," he closed.
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