|With the Heisman hype building for current Hawkeye running back Shonn Greene, HSN thought we’d take time during this bye week to look back at the last Iowa great to get invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and just about went home with the award. It was only six years ago that Iowa’s last Heisman hopeful, Brad Banks, much like Greene, came from the ranks of the unknown to Heisman candidate in just one short year.|
Brad Banks played quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2001 and 2002. A junior college transfer from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, Banks spent most of his junior season as backup to then QB Kyle McCann. In 2001, Banks did show signs of things to come in limited play and finished the season with 582 pass yards with 4 touchdowns while completing 60.3% of his passes. Iowa finished that season with a 7-5 record after a 19-16 win over Texas Tech in the 2001 Alamo Bowl, the Hawkeyes’ first bowl appearance since 1997.
The next season Brad Banks would start every game at quarterback and lead the Hawkeyes to one of the greatest regular seasons in Iowa football history. Iowa started the 2002 season with victories over Akron and at Miami (OH), before squandering a 24-7 halftime lead, in the 3rd game of the season, to lose at home to Iowa State, 36-31, which would end up being the Hawkeyes’ only regular season loss. The Hawkeyes would bounce back from that loss with back-to-back thrilling wins the next two weeks to open Big Ten play. Iowa almost wasted another big lead the next week at #12 Penn State, when the Nittany Lions came back from a 35-13 fourth quarter deficit to force overtime. Banks connected with CJ Jones for a 6-yard TD pass, his 4th on the day, in the first overtime period to give Iowa the victory. The next week at home against Purdue is when Banks had his “Heisman moment”, and all Iowa fans were treated to a comeback they will certainly never forget. With Iowa down 28-24, backed up in Purdue territory, and two minutes and change on the clock, Banks would lead the Hawkeyes quickly down the field before connecting with Dallas Clark on 4th-and-goal from the seven with just over a minute left in the game. Just thinking of that play still gives anyone who was in attendance that day goosebumps, myself included.
After that moment, it was smooth sailing for the Hawkeyes as they ripped through the rest of their Big Ten schedule winning each of their last six games by 16 points or more, including a 34-9 spanking of Michigan in the Big House. Banks threw for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns in that game as Iowa handed the Wolverines their worst home loss since 1967. Next came home wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern before Iowa traveled to Minnesota for the season finale with a Big Ten Championship on the line. Banks passed for two touchdowns, rushed for two touchdowns, Iowa won 45-21, and Hawkeye fans rushed the field and took home the Dome’s goalposts.
The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 11-1 overall and an undefeated 8-0 in Big Ten play. Iowa won a share of the Big Ten Championship with Ohio State and earned a berth to the 2003 Orange Bowl. The Hawkeyes were ranked #3 in the nation before losing to USC 38-17 in the Orange Bowl. After that loss, Iowa ended the season ranked #8 in the Final AP Poll.
Brad Banks finished the 2002 season with a completion percentage of 57.8% (170-of-294) for 2573 yards with 26 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. He ranked first in all of Division 1-A in passing efficiency. Banks also rushed for 435 yards on 82 carries and scored 5 TDs on the ground. He would be named the Associated Press Player of the Year, was awarded the Davey O’Brien Award for being college football’s best quarterback, and finished a close 2nd to USC quarterback Carson Palmer in Heisman Trophy voting. And if it wasn’t for a primetime scheduled, much over-hyped USC win over an overrated Notre Dame team in late November, Brad Banks would have won that Heisman. For the record, HSN still believes that he should have.
Banks was undrafted after college and signed as a free agent with the then Steve Spurrier coached Washington Redskins. He was not a good fit for that offense and was released before the 2003 season. Banks signed with the Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League and has played in Canada ever since. This season, Banks is the backup QB for the Montreal Allouettes. This year marks his 5th year in the CFL and 2nd with the Allouettes. Banks has only seen action in 3 games this season and completed his only pass thrown. With two weeks left in the regular season, Montreal is currently in 1st place in the East Division and tied for the best record in the CFL. The Grey Cup Playoffs start in two weeks on November 8th.
Earlier this year, The Rivalry, Esq. conducted an exclusive interview with Hawkeye great Brad Banks. In the short interview, Banks discusses his years at Iowa, the magical 2002 season, and life after college. If you missed it, it is definitely worth the read.