October 9, 1998
CLEMSON, S.C. — Football practices can be some of the most grueling practices in all of sport. Especially in Clemson during the “dog days” of August when the thermometer is approaching 100 degrees and the humidity makes the heat index soar. As if the heat, the physical contact and running weren’t hard enough, imagine going through this with two bad knees.
Offensive guard Brent Banasiewicz faces this during every Clemson practice and game. The Monticello, FL native earned his degree in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management in May of this year and could have easily ended his football career then. Despite facing excruciating pain every time he steps on the field he choose to come back as Clemson’s only graduate student on the roster.
“Both of my knees hurt every time I go out there. After every practice I ice both knees down for 30-45 minutes until they feel numb to keep the swelling down. I also take pain killers to help ease the pain,” says Banasiewicz.
Banasiewicz first started playing football in the seventh grade and before Clemson never suffered a major injury. Even his high school days went without injury even though his team at Aucilla Christian only dressed 18 players his senior year. That fact forced Banasiewicz to play both sides of the ball and special teams, thus seeing action basically every play.
As a recruit, he came to Clemson and was escorted around by then Clemson player and current graduate assistant coach Will Young. Banasiewicz liked the people he met and the small town charm that he found in Clemson. During his visit he made his commitment to the Tigers.
“I liked Clemson because of its size. I am from a very small town. Clemson isn’t big enough to walk across campus and not see anybody you know. I like that.”
After red-shirting his freshman season in 1994, Banasiewicz headed into the following spring practice with aspirations of earning a starting assignment. Unfortunately those hopes were dashed when the first of his two knee injuries occurred.
“Coming in, I guess I was like any other freshman . You have high expectations and you hope to earn a starting spot. When the first injury occurred, I didn’t really think it was that serious of an injury until they told me I had to have surgery. It took pretty much the whole summer to come back. I was ready to go a few weeks before the 1995 fall camp, but I felt the injury set me back going into that season,” said Banasiewicz.
After preparing his knee for play again, Banasiewicz would eventually see action in 29 snaps during the 1995 season and 30 snaps in the 1996 campaign. In ’96, Banasiewicz played in 11 games and saw considerable action on the Tigers’ special teams.
Before the 1997 season even got under way, Banasiewicz injured his other knee.
“It was our final scrimmage of the preseason, a running play behind me,” Banasiewicz recalls. “The play was actually over, but somebody dove over the pile and took me out. I had to have surgery to keep the kneecap from dislocating.”
Fortunately this injury was not as bad as his first and the time it took him to return was significantly less. Before realizing this, Banasiewicz began to doubt if he wanted to even come back.
“For a little while last season I thought about not coming back because I figured it would take me a long time. Those thoughts were based on the time it took me to come back from the first injury. I thought to myself, there is just no way. Luckily I was able to come back and play on it. Once I was able to play on it, I told myself I would come back because in the spring I knew I would be starting.”
He did comeback and saw the first action of the ’97 season at Wake Forest as he participated in 12 plays and was a part of eight snaps in Clemson’s 47-21 win at South Carolina.
During the tough times of the two injuries Banasiewicz had his parents there to give him support and guidance. “My parents were both really supportive. My mom told me that what was happening was all in God’s will. ‘He is going to do what is best for you,’ she said. That helped a lot just knowing that it wasn’t just out of the blue. God did have a plan. I guess this has been God’s way of telling me that there are bigger things than football out there. Being hurt was his way of showing me that.”
Another source of inspiration for coming back came from his teammates on the offensive line. A desire to play one more year with some of his good friends helped make his decision.
“The guys that I play with up front are all pretty much best friends. Three of us came in together, Matt Butler, Holland Postell and myself. We have been through a lot together and my decision to come back had a lot to do with them. I did not want to let them down. I wanted to finished out my career with those guys.
“You can have friends outside of football, but it is different. Inside the sport, all of us have been there and been through so much together. It is just some kind of bond between us. You know you can count on those guys being there for you.”
This past off season Banasiewicz took his off the field conditioning to another level. Hoping to offset his inexperience on the field, he looked to move ahead of the game physically in the weight room. Before the season began, Banasiewicz ranked among the top-10 on the team in several weight lifting categories, including second on the team in the squat (593 pounds) and second in the clean (355 pounds). “I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, even my legs are stronger in spite of the knees.”
Now after four years in waiting, Banasiewicz is finally at the position he set out to be. A starting offensive lineman for a major college football team. He has started all five games this season for the Tigers and been in for at least 29 snaps every game. “It has been just a dream come true to start for a major college. Being a starter this year is one of the reasons I came back. I have been thrilled at the prospect of playing a lot this year. Coming in I wanted people to count on me to get the job done. This is what I’ve been working for the last four years.”
It is only natural for Banasiewicz to think about the possibility of getting hurt again. The pain in his knees is always there to remind him of what can happen at any time while he is on the field. Admitting that he has those thoughts in the back of his mind, Banasiewicz has his own perspective of how to overcome them.
“During the Wake Forest game a guy rolled into me and I felt my knee give a little bit. It scares me some, but if you play timid you are going to get hurt,” explains Banasiewicz. “You just have to brush that off and keep going. If you play with that in the back of your mind you will get hurt.”
Just as the “dog days” of August have past, hopefully the “dog days” of Banasiewicz’s career are behind him as well and he can concentrate on what he initially set out to do at Clemson. Play football.
March 14, 2019