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GSU takes it to the Banks
110312 GSU BANKS 1
Georgia Southern fullback William Banks scores one of his three first-half touchdowns in Saturday's 31-28 loss to Appalachian State at Paulson Stadium.

Howard (6-3) at #7 GSU (7-2)
Saturday, 2 p.m. - Homecoming
Paulson Stadium
TV: None
Radio: 103.7 FM

    Going into pre-season practice, William Banks was so far down the Georgia Southern depth chart he may as well have been in a witness protection program.
    The only evidence Banks was on the Eagle football team could be found in the spring game statistics which showed him with 10 carries for 32 yards.
    Now, as Georgia Southern heads into the final two games of the regular season Banks has suddenly emerged as an important cog in the Eagles’ drive to secure a spot in the FCS playoffs.
    The Eagles, despite losing to Appalachian State last Saturday, clinched a share of the Southern Conference championship when Wofford lost at Samford.
    The only way Georgia Southern could secure the SoCon’s automatic bid to the playoffs, however, is if Furman beats the Mountaineers on Saturday.
    Otherwise, the Eagles (7-2, 6-2) must beat Howard (6-3, 5-2 MEAC), who they face at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Paulson Stadium, and then hope for an at-large bid to the 20 team playoff field. It will be Homecoming and Senior Day.
    App State (7-3, 5-2) holds the advantage in all tie-breaker situations over the Eagles, and Wofford. The Mocs cannot make the playoffs, even if they share the title, as they would not have the prerequisite seven Division I wins.
    It is not likely the Eagles will beat Georgia in their final game of the season, but an 8-3 record and a share of the conference championship should  earn Coach Jeff Monken’s team a third straight trip to the playoffs.
    As to Banks few Eagle fans in last Saturday’s crowd of 22,155 had the faintest clue as to who he was when he trotted onto the field at the start of the game.
    The public address announcer had announced Dominique Swope as the starter although Swope was not in uniform. He was missing his second straight game with a concussion.
    Despite starting for the Blue in the spring game no one thought enough of Banks’ prospects to include him in the media guide. There is also no information about him on the school’s website.
    “Banks was so far down the depth chart,” Monken said. “We didn’t think he would be in the mix. He’s not fast, he doesn’t have great feet, he’s just a tough kid who works hard.
    “We’ve played with guys like that here (in the past), but at other positions,” Monken said. “We have been fortunate we’ve had scholarship quality guys at running back.”
    The Eagles have a long list of walk-ons who became all-conference or All-Americas, primarily as offensive or defensive linemen or linebackers.
    It doesn’t happen, for example, at the marquee positions of quarterback or running back where players are recruited to play those positions.
    “He beat some guys out,” Monken said. “I’m proud of him. He did a really good job last Saturday. He ran out of some tackles, and had some impressive plays.
    “He came from the bottom.”
    Banks had 129 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 19 attempts against Appalachian State, scoring on runs of 4, 20 and 36 yards in the first half when he had 103 yards on 10 carries.
    Actually Banks was playing in his ninth game of the season, and previously had 179 yards on 36 attempts. However, only three of those carries for 10 yards had come at Paulson in a mop up role.
    Banks carried 18 times for 69 yards at Chattanooga, and before that he had 101 yards at Western Carolina, all in the second half on a day when the Eagles ran for 664 yards, 203 in the fourth quarter.
    So, just who is this Banks kid?
    “I’m from Augusta,” Banks said after practice earlier this week. “I played at Augusta Christian. Had one scholarship offer coming out of high school. That was at Campbell, and it was for academics.”
    The youngest of four boys he is the brother of Lee Banks who played for the Eagles under Chris Hatcher and Monken.
    Lee Banks ran for 257 yards in 2010 after playing defensive back under Hatcher.   
    “Lee liked it here and encouraged me to come to Southern,” said Banks who gave his height and weight as 5-foot-9, 193-pounds.
    “That’s 5-9 on a good day,” Banks said, pausing to chuckle, “and 193 on a good day.”
    Banks came to Georgia Southern in 2009 as a walk-on, was injured the following season, and spent last year on the scout team. This is the first year his name has ever appeared on a roster.
    However, the thought of calling it quits was never part of his thought process, Banks said.
    “I’ve been playing football my entire life,” Banks said. “I played with my brothers in the yard, and then started playing in the eighth grade. I would never quit.
    “When someone goes down you just have to step up and fill the role,” Banks said when asked about his recent long-awaited opportunity. “I’m thankful the coaches have faith in me. I appreciate it.
    “I try to practice hard,” Banks said. “I get to meetings and stay focused. Football is my passion for life.”