Nearing the completion of his senior year at West Florida Tech, Noah Banks’ dream of playing NCAA Division I football appeared over.
“I was just an average recruit because I hadn’t really developed my body yet. I was a really big guy, but I was still awkward. I wasn’t very athletic yet, coordinated,” Banks said. “I had mid-major offers. I was committed to Troy for about a year, then they had a coaching change. That’s when they got Coach (Neal) Brown from UK (Kentucky). I was committed there for about a year, and then about a week before signing day, they called me and told me they were going to grayshirt me, which at the time I had never heard of.”
NCAA D1 coaches across the country have faced criticism for the frequently deceptive methods involved in grayshirting, whereupon a player enrolls at the university as a student during the first semester and initially pays his or her own enrollment dues before being placed on scholarship. A coach will often inform signees of the grayshirt decision merely days before he or she intends to sign a binding letter of intent, which often limits a prospective student-athlete’s collegiate options and delays their athletic eligibility.
“I kind of got screwed out of the recruiting process because of that, so I ended up going to Murray State.”
One of Kentucky’s top public universities and home to nearly 9,000 undergraduate students, Murray State offered Banks an opportunity to join the 2015 class on scholarship, but the football program isn’t regarded as an ideal destination for someone looking to elevate their prospects.
“I redshirt my first year, and then the second year I started and I was doing really well, was a team-captain and all that stuff,” Banks said. “Things never went bad, I just felt like it wasn’t enough for me. I knew I could do better after I had developed and grown into my body, and stuff like that.”
After developing at Murray State, Banks, a Pensacola native, had reached a point where he could test the waters and transfer to a more respected program, but the leap would come at the expense of a year’s eligibility. So, without numerous options yet aiming to take a risk and reap the rewards, the 6-foot-7 Banks opted to take the junior college route. He landed 650 miles north in Council Bluffs, Iowa, at Iowa Western Community College, where a call from UF offensive line coach John Hevesy, then at Mississippi State, soon followed.
“I’m not sure how he found out about me but he had kinda reached out to me over Twitter and we had exchanged phone numbers and talked for a little while. And after I told him I was gonna go the JUCO route cause I wanted to look at other options, we kind of stopped talking for a little while,” Banks said. “And when I was at junior college for a little while, that’s when he reached back out to me, I had shot him a text to see how things were going — this was a couple of weeks before they had got the Florida job, we had been talking for a little while — and when I found out he had got the Florida job, that’s when we started talking a little bit more.”
Three weeks after Hevesy arrived at Florida, Banks flipped his verbal commitment from Arkansas and signed with UF, where he arrived in January for the spring semester. His relationship with Hevesy kept Mississippi State in the mix throughout his recruitment, yet it was Mullen and Co. heading to Gainesville that sealed the decision.
“I had been to Mississippi State before and it really wasn’t my environment,” Banks said. “When they came to Florida, I had already had that relationship with them so I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
After receiving just a lone committable offer in 2015, Banks persevered, eventually earning a scholarship at a program located just five hours from where he had grown up.
“I met some guys that I became good brothers with that I still talk to this day, and that made it a lot easier,” Banks said. “When I left Murray State it was actually really hard, just leaving all of them and going to JUCO. And JUCO is, I’m sure you guys have seen (Last Chance U), it’s not much to it. Luckily, I was only there for a semester.”
At 21 years old and with two years of collegiate eligibility remaining, Banks is only just tasting his first Power Five football, but he’s in a position to contribute along Florida’s offensive line this season.
So far, Banks has apparently been displaying the work ethic that helped turn a pipe dream into a success story.
“He’s a hard-working guy. I think that ever since we came in to learn the new offense, I think it’s kind of helped him, because we all had to switch and transition to a new offensive playbook,” senior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan said. “I think he’s been working hard and doing all he can to contribute.”