Kansas State University

Speed thrills for K-State's Banks

For Brandon Banks, nothing beats returning kicks.

Ever since he started playing football, it's what he's wanted to do. Oh sure, he'd play any old position his pee-wee coaches asked him to, but that was just to get on the field.

He cherished playing special teams.

Considering the Kansas State senior receiver has been the fastest player on every team he's been a part of, that attitude isn't surprising. He is blessed with speed, and he wants to use it.

And what's the easiest way to showcase speed on a football field? Catching a kick in open space and trying to outrun everyone else.

"I like to get the ball in my hands," Banks said. "Special teams is a whole lot easier to get the ball in my hands."

Banks has certainly done a lot with the ball in his hands this season. As K-State's primary return man, he has taken three kickoffs more than 90 yards back for touchdowns. Those three returns set a single-season program record and tied the Big 12 record.

His current career average of 29.6 yards ranks first in conference history.

Banks has become so explosive on returns, sophomore safety Tysyn Hartman now expects a touchdown every game. He thinks many fans feel the same way.

"Anytime the ball is in his hands, the whole stadium is holding their breath, waiting for something to happen," Hartman said. "It's no different with us. He has such great athleticism and speed. All he needs is a little crease and to get him out into open space."

Senior quarterback Grant Gregory compares his speed to NFL wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and jokes that he now waits until Banks is tackled on a return to put his helmet on.

"It's nice to be ready to go on the field for offense, but we don't have to because he scores," Gregory said. "It's happened three times this year. It doesn't get old."

Speed has always allowed Banks to stand out. In high school, he ran track and once ran the 100 meters in 10.22 seconds and was named to the 2006 USA Today All-USA high school track team.

He was so good at sprinting that in 2006, he competed for a touring team in track meets around the world. In a single summer, he said track took him to Oregon, California and Beijing.

When the experience was over, he had 22 Division I track scholarships waiting for him at home and he came close to accepting one at North Carolina.

But in the end, he "just felt the love for football."

So to Bakersfield Community College he went. His speed helped him excel at wide receiver and kick returner, and that helped him land at Kansas State.

As a junior with the Wildcats, he became the best wide receiver on the roster while still returning one kick for a touchdown. This year, he still is K-State's top receiving threat, but he's also its best special teams threat.

"Every time I get out there," he said, "I'm just running."

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