Note: The following appears in the Florida State gameday football program.
Tight end J.L. Banks’s path to become a Tiger is a bit unorthodox. The Madison, Ga. native spent two seasons following in his father’s footsteps at Georgia Southern before ultimately making his way to Tigertown.
“My father played on the 1986 (Georgia Southern) national championship team there with Head Coach Erk Russell, and coming out of high school, it was the best decision for me. I had a lot of family ties there and it was a place that was special to me.”
His family’s history at Georgia Southern played a huge role in his choice to head to Statesboro.
“When you grow up and that’s all you know and all you hear about, and to have an opportunity to play and create your own story there, it was something that was really exciting and inspiring to me.”
Banks was recruited to Georgia Southern by Head Coach Willie Fritz, but after one season, Fritz departed to become the head coach at Tulane. After redshirting his first season, Banks played 49 snaps in 10 games in 2016. Led by first-year Head Coach Tyson Summers, that team had a 5-7 overall record and 4-4 mark in the Sun Belt Conference, good for a sixth-place finish.
With more coaching changes looming and a desire to find a better fit, Banks set his sights on transferring to continue his academic and athletic career.
“I took a visit here to Clemson and met Coach (Dabo) Swinney, Coach (Robbie) Caldwell, Coach (Danny) Pearman and all those guys, and it felt like a perfect fit.”
Not only was Banks impressed by the leaders running the team itself, he was immediately drawn to the community atmosphere that Swinney and company have built into the program.
“Everyone was family by the time you walk in the door…everyone from the guy behind the desk to Tyler, who cuts hair, to Ms. Cynthia, who keeps the place clean and sharp. Everyone is first class.”
Banks worked hard to ensure he was where he needed to be academically and physically when he transferred to Clemson in 2018. That opportunity would arrive, and Banks is extremely grateful that it did, claiming that coming to Clemson was the best decision he has ever made.
Of course, that decision still had a negative consequence in the form of a required transfer season that forced him to sit out. Banks watched on the sideline as Clemson hoisted its second national championship trophy in three seasons. Despite his ineligibility, he kept a positive attitude throughout the season.
“Honestly, if I was going to be sitting anywhere in the country, there’s no other place I would have rather been than here. As far as showing up every day and going to work in practice, going to work in the weightroom, the company you’re around…it was a blessing.”
Now that he is back in action on Saturdays, Banks played in both the Georgia Tech (14 snaps) and Charlotte (13 snaps) games earlier this season. As far as his personal goals, Banks wants to keep everything team oriented.
“I want to come to work every day with the right mindset and I want to be the best teammate I can be. My personal goal is overall team success.”
As the year progresses, Banks looks to continue to be as beneficial an asset to the program as possible, hopefully culminating in another national championship that this time, after a winding road to Clemson, he can be on the field to celebrate with his teammates while donning the Tiger Paw on his helmet.