This week's throwback Thursday feature highlights yet another current coach at the high school ranks. It is amazing how many former Golden Eagles are now inspiring others through coaching football, and former USM tight end Leroy Banks certainly fits the bill.
Banks, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, played for Southern Miss in 2008 and 2009, and in those two short years certainly made a name for himself and notched himself as a fine offensive target for the offense. He also was a leader on and off the field who exemplified everything it means to be a Golden Eagle. Overlooked early in his career, Banks was a hard worker who never took a snap for granted.
Now, he's passing those lessons on to the next generation.
"I am now coaching back at my high school alma mater in Memphis by of name of Whitehaven," Banks told GoldenEaglePride.com in our weekly feature.
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"We are top ranked in Memphis right now (6A). I am the special team's coordinator and WR's coach. We are excited because we are heading into the playoffs this Friday."
Whitehaven certainly has memories of the talented Banks, who was making some big time noise coming out of high school. Even though grades were an issue for him coming out of high school, Banks is a success story who got his shot at the college ranks and made the most of it.
"My senior year at Whitehaven I was recruited heavily by Ole Miss head coach now Hugh Freeze," he explained.
"He was the WR coach at the time. I wasn't qualified, I had to start my college career at Coahoma Community College and after two years there I was being recruited by Oklahoma State and Ole Miss again."
At the time he was finishing his career at Coahoma, he still hadn't heard from Southern Miss. That all changed when the Fedora era started in Hattiesburg.
"Coach Fedora was writing me letters to come to play at OSU and Coach Tony Hughes recruited me while at Ole Miss," he said. "Memphis came in the picture late after I was named a JuCo all-star but I wasn't interested in them at that time.
"Then, there was Jackson State. I had been talking to them a lot and would sign with them if I didn't get the big offer I was looking for. I stopped hearing from both Oklahoma State and Ole Miss. I finally got a call from Southern Miss late but they seemed to already be family because I was just getting recruited by both Coach Hughes and Fedora who were now with the same team. So, I pretty much was sold by them and Coach Farrar, he is a great guy and good recruiter."
He also states that growing up Memphis was never his goal, but Tennessee was. Fortunately, Banks found the exact right fit for him and for the Golden Eagles, even with him adjusting to a new position.
"I remember it being a rough first year transitioning over from WR to TE," he said. "I had a great player (Shawn Nelson) and Coach Kris Mangum who just had left the NFL to learn from. A memorable moment was coming home my junior year and playing against Memphis. I honestly had the worst game ever. I had a few drops and then we lost, it was torture!
"But, of course, the game against Virginia when we were down 17 in the second half and came back and won is a game I'll never forget."
Fans of the program will certainly remember Banks going head over heels for a TD catch against UCF in which he contorted his body like a cirque du soleil acrobat.
"That was all adrenaline," he said. "I remember seeing the Touchdown line and diving over the defender and falling short. Then, I posted my hand off the ground and reached for the score. That was being a superhero. I could have been Inspector Gadget with that reach."
Banks appeared in all 13 games in his senior season. He ranked tied for third in catches (29) and third in receiving yards (375) at the tight end position. He added three touchdown receptions with one coming against Alcorn State (9/5), UCF (9/12) and East Carolina (11/28).
His time at Southern Miss is something that will continue to remain with him as he goes through life.
"It meant everything to me," he said.
"We were family with the same goals and dreams. Everyone brought their lunch pail and hard hat to practice daily and got to work."
After his career ended with Southern Miss, before heading back home to Memphis where he would pick up his coaching career, Banks was able to fulfill a lifelong dream.
"Playing professionally was a great experience for me," he said of his time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"It was a dream come true since playing pop warner football. It gave me something I can give back to the players following my footsteps. I'm their guidance and leader because I went in blind and never had anyone take me under their wing. Now, I have a big plane and putting everyone I can under my wing."
And putting them under his wing is exactly what he's doing. He's returned home, doing what he loves around the game of football, and making an impact in the lives of youth through coaching.
"It meant everything to come back home," he said.
"My junior year of high school was Coach Rodney Saulsberry and the first year of him being the head coach. He's still the head coach today and I'm happy to be working with him. I watched him take an average 5-5 team during my days to numerous 10-0 seasons and the first state championship to the program in 2012.
"I was honored for him to build something successful and welcome me aboard to continue the success. I started in 2013 and have loved every second of it."