Before Brandon Banks made a national name for himself by turning four Kansas State kickoff returns into touchdowns during his senior season, he was an underdog.
From the time he first decided to go out for his high school football team, coaches saw his frame — he stands 5-foot-7 and weighs 154 pounds today — and scoffed.
"Every year I've played football has been a challenge for me," Banks said. "I've been overlooked my whole life. I lack size and weight, and people told me I was going to get hurt. I'm capable of playing at this size, but it's just something I've always had to prove."
Heading into the NFL Combine, which Banks will take part in starting today along with 43 other wide receivers in Indianapolis, he must prove himself once again.
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The most optimistic of NFL Draft experts see him as a seventh-round selection, but most predict his only hope of joining a team will be as an undrafted free agent.
For either to occur, Banks will need to perform well in front of scouts this week and showcase his eye-popping speed in the 40-yard dash, the three-cone drill and other tests.
Banks, a former high school All-America sprinter, has been working out twice a day in his home state of North Carolina. He has a few specific goals.
"I'm going to go in there and put some numbers up," he said. "I want to run the 40 in 4.28 (seconds) or less and the three-cone drill in no more than 3.8 or 3.9."
Those times would likely put him near the top of any scout's list looking for speed, and if he can run a 4.25 in the 40, which he says he has been doing consistently, he could find himself getting all kinds of attention.
So far, Banks says he has been in contact with more than 20 of the NFL's 32 teams, and that the Cincinnati Bengals have shown by far the most interest. He thinks his versatility as a kick-return specialist and wide receiver is appealing to teams. In his two seasons at K-State, he was far and away the top receiver, catching 123 passes for 1,754 yards.
Ideally, he would like to play for the Dallas Cowboys, but with his size and his December arrest for battery and unlawful possession of a stimulant, he understands he cannot be choosy.
Catching on with any NFL team would be a dream come true. With that dream riding on a handful of drills this week, one may expect him to be nervous — never a problem for Banks.
"I'm approaching this week the same way I did high school football when I wasn't even over 100 pounds as a freshman," Banks said. "That year coaches wouldn't play me early and I didn't get my shot until the fifth game. But the first time I touched the ball, I scored a touchdown on an 80-yard reverse."
He's been playing ever since.