The Curious Case of James Banks

Tennessee's off-the-field football problems presents a dual dilemma for the Vols — a drain of outstanding talent and a stain on the program's image.

The first problem has an immediate impact on the team's success while the latter creates longer lasting issues in regards to recruiting. Undoubtedly, the Vols can overcome these obstacles but the fallout will continue through Tony McDaniels' trial next month when the ugly details of an alleged brawl will be laid bare for public examination.

Tennessee has done as much as it can in terms of damage control and now the emphasis has to shift to prevention. After all an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of flesh. That's why UT's refusal to reinstate James Banks as a student/athlete makes sense and sends a clear message that all the talent and remorse in the world does nothing to alter the acts of a serial transgressor.

That's not to say Banks can't eventually redeem himself at another school, and there will be plenty of programs willing to give him that chance, but he simply exhausted his chances at Tennessee.

That's truly a shame because Banks is probably as fine a natural athlete as the Vols have ever signed. He was good enough to play football, basketball and baseball in college, and he possesses the ability to play quarterback, defensive back or wide receiver on the gridiron. With some hard work and dedication he could be in line for NFL riches as a top-grade receiver or DB.

So there's plenty of incentive for Banks to turn things around and he comes from a very fine family that will give him all the support he needs to complete that process. Their willingness to pick up the tab at UT for his room, board and tuition underscores just how much they wanted him to succeed on the Hill.

The case of James Banks demonstrates that outstanding talent can be a two-edged sword. Success in football has always come easy for him. He didn't need to spend endless hours of strength training and practice to be special on the field. He started at quarterback from his first season at Ben Davis High School and led the Giants to three straight Class-6A championships.

He was also the team's punter and punt returner. As a senior, he took on duties in the secondary for the first time in his career and returned four interceptions for touchdowns while averaging over 50 yards per return. Once while in punt formation he retrieved a deep snap that went over his head and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to lift the Giants to a playoff victory.

At Tennessee he nearly led the Vols to an upset victory over Georgia in his first college start at quarterback. He played wide receiver for the first time as a sophomore and was UT's leading receiver. His touchdown catch at the end of the first half against Florida was critical to the Vols victory in Gainesville and it showed just how capable he was in the clutch.

In a sports sense Banks was Superman without the cape, but nothing prepared him for life as Clark Kent. That came when knee surgery sidelined him during his junior campaign and forced him into an existence as a mere mortal. Perhaps his intentional submission of a tainted drug test was a cry for help.

Reggie Cobb and Onterrio Smith are a pair of former Vol running backs who survived three strikes at Tennessee to reach the NFL. Banks may be the next. The guess here is that most Big Orange fans will be pulling for him.

Inside Tennessee Top Stories