Eric Banks, currently under contract with the Los Angeles Rams, is working at Locke Hill Feed, Pet & Lawn Supply. Like, right now. Maybe not as you read this, but even after he signed with the Rams, Banks is working at a Lawn Supply store, in some capacity. It is “just something to pay the bills right now until my lease is up,” Banks told San Antonio Express-News.
And then as soon as coronavirus restrictions in California are lifted enough, or the Rams decide to move their offseason workouts to another state, Banks will continue his journey towards trying to become a professional football player.
Banks was an unranked two-star recruit out of Memphis East High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 2016. He was listed as an “athlete” but the reality is much more unusual: Banks was a quarterback for most of his high school career, then transitioned to defensive end by Marcus Wimberly, the head coach. Banks had just transferred from Memphis Academy of Health Sciences and Wimberly saw him as an exceptional athlete who would have a much better shot playing in college if he switched to the d-line.
“I looked at him crazy,” Banks said. “‘What are you talking about, D-end?’ But he told me that this is where I’m going to thrive. This is what I’m going to go to school for. Of course, me being 17 or 18, I didn’t understand it. But now I see what he meant, and I’m thankful he did that.”
He was right.
Though Banks was a successful high school quarterback, leading Memphis East to the playoffs as a senior playing both sides of the ball, University of Texas San Antonio head coach Frank Wilson was impressed by the athleticism he saw from Banks on the basketball court. It was a similar story to what Purdue saw in Rams rookie tight end Brycen Hopkins. Banks’ head coach at Memphis East: Penny Hardaway.
For Banks to learn how to play defensive line at the division-I level, he was also going to have to learn the hard-a-way.
There are no other offers listed for Banks and he ended up going to UTSA. He was 215 pounds as a high school senior and 275 pounds by the time he finished his college career. Those weren’t the only changes he went through at UTSA, but his production was rather consistent even as Wilson moved him from the edge to the inside during his senior season.
“We put him inside and allowed him to bust nose, and get his nose busted a couple of times, as well,” Wilson said. “Just roughed him up some, and it’s helped his evolution that when he goes back to the end position, he’s that much more physical.”
His defensive line coach as a freshman in 2016 was Eric Henderson, who was hired to work in the same role for the Rams in 2019. Banks 49 career games is a program record. He spent two seasons on the line with former first round pick Marcus Davenport.
Banks was not invited to the combine and didn’t have a pro day. We don’t know his speed and related elements then, but his size comps (around 6’4-6’6, 265-275 pound defensive linemen) are guys like Yetur Gross-Matos and A.J. Epenesa as second round picks this year, plus Khalid Kareem, James Smith-Williams, and Jason Strowbridge, all of whom were drafted.
Banks signs with the LA Rams as a player whose exceptional combination of size and athleticism got his new coach at Memphis East to get him thinking about positions other than quarterback. Projecting him as a player who would fill out his tall frame, high school and college mentors developed a player valued by coaches even when his production wasn’t outstanding on the box scores. Without workout numbers, there was little Banks could do to raise his stock and so he signs with the Rams. He’s joining a group that has almost no room for new players to make an impact but also could take on some great mentors in Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, and A’Shawn Robinson. And when they give the green light to start NFL practices again, Banks is ready to drop the lawn supplies and go.
“Whenever we get called out there, I’m pretty sure everything is going to happen quick,” Banks said. “So stay in shape, just be ready, and that’s it. That’s pretty much all they said. … Everything is a waiting game right now. They don’t know what to expect.”