HOUSTON – Nov. 30, 2018 – On the very first day that Dekaney Senior Marcus Banks stepped onto a football field, at the age of four, his coach at the time nicknamed him “Speedy.” The name has stuck ever since, and now Banks – a celebrated Dekaney cornerback who joined the varsity team during his sophomore year – is headed to San Antonio, where on Jan. 5 he will play in the 2019 All-American Bowl.
“We always kind of knew Speedy was special,” said his mother Leah Banks, who recalled how the nickname had inspired her son to keep moving forward despite life’s challenges. “We always knew he had God-given talent, and he has worked extremely hard and has been focused on this for many years. He’s put in countless hours and has made a lot of sacrifices.”
Boasting some 400 former players who have gone on to careers in the NFL, the All-American Bowl (formerly the U.S. Army All-American Bowl) is one of the nation’s premier high school football invitationals, now in its 19th year. Out of more than a million high school football players across the country, only a hundred are selected to participate in the event, held annually at the Alamodome in San Antonio and presented by American Family Insurance. This year’s game will be played at noon CST on Saturday, Jan. 5, and will be broadcast live on NBC.
In an added draw for both local and national sports fans, Banks is among a select handful of players chosen this year to formally announce his collegiate choice from the sidelines during the All-American Bowl in January.
“Only a hundred players from across the country can say they’ve received an invitation to play in the All-American Bowl,” said the organization’s representative, Mike Boyd, who was on hand to make the official announcement and present Banks with his jersey for the game. “They’re being selected for their talents, skill set and work ethic, both on and off the field.”
Dekaney Head Coach Anthony Williams – who has now seen three of his players receive invites to either the All-American Bowl or the Under Armour All-America Game – said that Banks, like Trey Williams and Malcolm Epps before him, is building on the school’s legacy while also giving younger players a model of focus, drive and success to look up to.
“Being selected into these bowl games is a great accomplishment,” Williams said. “For me, it’s a bridge-builder. He’s building a bridge that other kids can follow, just like Malcolm built a bridge for him.”
Williams emphasized Banks’ well-rounded approach and consistent effort – no matter the task – as keys to his success.
“As an athlete, as a football player, and just as a human being, he’s the same person,” Williams said. “He has all-star playing ability, but he also has all-star character. He’s a great kid. I’ve known him since he was in the fifth grade, and his dad was a real close friend of mine. I had no idea back then that he would leave this kind of impact on this school, but it’s been a blessing to coach him. He’s really worked hard for this.”
During the official ceremony, Williams requested a moment of silence to honor Banks’ step-father – and former member of the Dekaney coaching team – Bobby Meeks, who died earlier this year. Meeks played football during his own time at Florida State University, and had helped raise Banks since he was a young child. According to Banks’ mother, the two were inseparable and bonded deeply over their shared passion for football.
“His father played nose guard at Florida State,” Banks’ mother said of her late husband. “He was six-foot-five, three hundred pounds, a big man. But if he was here today, he’d probably be in tears. To see Marcus in this light, I know his dad would be shedding tears of joy.”
After accepting the jersey, Banks was quick to give thanks to his coaches, teammates, friends and family, and especially to his mother, whose support Banks said had helped him remain strong during the months since his father’s death.
“She’s the real All-American,” he said.
Asked about what’s kept him motivated, Banks also pointed to his faith, which he said has helped sustain him and give him a greater sense of purpose.
“That’s what comes with life,” Banks said. “It’s not always going to be a straight line, and you’re going to hit some bumpy roads. If it’s meant for you, it’s going to be. God has a way, and not everybody’s path looks the same. There’s different paths for everybody, and you’ve just got to stay focused, stay level-headed.”