IOWA CITY — A script for Brad Banks’ professional football career reads almost like an unwritten epilogue to a fairy tale.
In 2002, Banks nearly won the Heisman Trophy, led Iowa to a co-Big Ten title and an Orange Bowl berth. Those accomplishments provide the “Happily Ever After” in a novel.
But real life doesn’t come with an ellipsis after the glory days. Banks, 30, knows this all too well.
Banks has felt the business-side backhand of professional football since he left Iowa in 2003. He went undrafted but signed with the Washington Redskins, who promptly cut him. Banks played five seasons in the Canadian Football League, where he bounced around through three organizations through 2008.
The experience left him frustrated.
“It was one of those deals when I came in ready to play and the coaches knew it, the front office knew it but, ‘Hey, you’ve got to wait a minute because we have such and such here,” Banks said. “‘He’s been playing good.’ It’s been one of those type of situations.’”
“I knew what I was getting into.”
Banks, who hails from Belle Glades, Fla., is giving professional football another try. He has earned a tryout with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League. It’s one more opportunity to play pro football, something Banks relishes.
“They called me up and said let’s see what you can do,” Banks said. “I’m excited about it. I think it would be a good opportunity.”
Banks was college football’s breakout performer in 2002. He led Iowa to an 11-2 record and an 8-0 mark in the Big Ten. He threw for 2,573 yards and 26 touchdowns to only five interceptions. He also ran for five scores.
His awards were astounding, especially for a player who transferred from a Florida junior college in 2001. He won the Big Ten MVP award, the Davey O’Brien Award, was named a member of several All-American teams and finished second to USC quarterback Carson Palmer in Heisman Trophy voting. It was a terrific year, but by the following spring, Brad Banks was simply another player to NFL scouts.
“For me it was like I was going back to ninth grade,” Banks said. “It was like a fresh start. You go all the way from ninth to 12th grade, then you start college and you hit the reset button. It’s a fresh start, I knew that. I’ve been through it before and I expected it.
“That’s what really brings the best out of me. I just anticipate and look forward to doing it.”
In his Canadian career with teams in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Montreal, Banks threw for 1,195 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions. He also ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns.
Banks also is preparing for life without football, beginning with a skills camp he conducted Saturday in Iowa City. He brought back a few old friends and teammates for 21 campers and taught basic football skills. He’s beginning to think camp instruction might be his calling after his playing career ends.
“I thought I wouldn’t be coaching or anything but after doing it and seeing how it rubs off on kids, it brings a little joy to you,” Banks said. “So I kind of got a passion for it. I knew I’d be doing that and just doing some different things in the community.”
Banks now resides in West Palm Beach, Fla., but Iowa City remains a special place for him. That’s why he wanted to return to instruct younger athletes.
“I think it was become of what they gave me,” he said. “They gave me support, they gave me love and it was genuine. It was one thing I wanted to do was reach out up here.”