Q & A with Da Boot Sports!
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
Tommy Banks was recruited to LSU by former head coach Gerry DiNardo. The bruising fullback from West Monroe became a four year starter lead blocking for running backs Kevin Faulk, Kendall Cleveland, and Rondell Mealey. Fans will always remember his seven yard scoring run against Florida, whiched helped LSU upset the #1 ranked Gators 28-21 in 1997. In his final game as a Tiger he would have a two touchdown performance in the 2000 Peach Bowl. Without a doubt, Tommy Banks will always be remembered as one of the greatest full backs to ever wear the purple and gold.
Q - What is your favorite TV Show?
Tommy - Scrubs
Q - Your Favorite Food?
Tommy - Steak
Q - You Favorite Pro Athlete?
Tommy - I'm a big Atlanta Braves fan so my All-Time would be Dale Murphy. Currently I'd have to say Freddie Freeman.
Q - Your Favorite Sports Team?
Tommy - LSU Tigers and the Atlanta Braves
Q - Who is your Favorite Music Artist?
Tommy - I really don't have a favorite artist. I kinda like genera of late 80s music, so any of those hair bands. I really can't name just one favorite band or artist. I really don't listen to much music these days.
Q - What's your Favorite Movie of All-Time?
Tommy - National Lampoon's Vacation
Q - Who is your Favorite Actor?
Tommy - Tom Cruise
Q - Did you grow up in West Monroe?
Tommy - Yes, lived in West Monroe up until I left to go to college.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Tommy - I wanted to be either a professional athlete or a doctor. I'm not really sure when the doctor idea came into play. I guess it was a thing that was just always there, but yea, those were the two things that came to mind.
Q - Did you play multiple sports at West Monroe High School?
I did. I played baseball for four years, I played football for four years, and I did power lifting for three years.
Q - Want to share any of your personal or team success in high school athletics?
Tommy - Yeah, actually during the beginning of my freshman year I wasn't at West Monroe. I went to Ouachita Christian which is a private school here in Monroe. Then I transferred to West Monroe shortly after school started. At the time I wasn't playing football only baseball. But then Coach Shows doing what he does, convinced me to come out and play football. So in my freshman year was when West Monroe won the state championship for the first time ever. It was the deepest we have ever gone into the playoffs and it was a pretty big accomplishment that year.
Then in my senior year we won our second state championship. That was a pretty big accomplish given the reason that we lost 15 to 16 of our 22 starters off of the previous years team. We were only predicted to finish third or fourth in the district. Nobody really gave us a chance to really do anything but we won our first out right District title that year and winning the state championship. So that was a huge accomplishments there.
As far as baseball, we went to the state tournament every year. In my junior year we lost by one run in 13 Innings to Brother Martin in the state championship game, that ended up being a classic game. In my sophomore and senior year we made it to the semi-finals so we had a pretty good baseball program also.
Q - Tell us a little about how your recruiting process went?
Tommy - Recruiting back then was a lot different than it is now. We didn't have the internet or all of the five star rating stuff like that. I started to get some letters after my freshman year. Then it just kind of progressed over the next few years.
I was only really recruited in football. I think I could have went to some JUCO school to play baseball, but of course it's difficult to compare LSU for football to a junior college for baseball. So of course I was always going the football route. My only regret as far as recruiting, in my senior year I wanted to wait until the end of the season before I would go on any official visit. Well with us winning the state championship I didn't have many weeks to go on recruiting visits. So I only took two. One to Texas A&M and one to LSU. I wish I was able to take more. It would have been nice to see what some of the other school's campuses were like. But it was different back then, we really didn't commit early. Basically a lot of guys would commit a month or two before Signing Day. Totally different experience than it is now. I can remember when I went to one of LSU's camps they were having and I hadn't committed yet. The LSU recruiting coordinator back then asked me.. “Why haven't you committed yet? Every time I see you, you're wearing an LSU cap.” …They were just all surprised that I hadn't committed. I knew deep down LSU was always the place that I wanted to go. I just wanted to make sure that I took time to really weigh on the decision heavily, and finally I committed.
Q - So what really made you choose LSU over the others that recruited you?
Tommy - More of really just being from Louisiana. Usually if you're from Louisiana your favorite team is LSU. Actually when I was growing up, LSU wasn't my favorite team. It was actually North East which is ULM now. Basically it was because I lived in Monroe and that was back when they were in double-A and won a national championship. So I went to all those games while I was growing up because it was just a 15-minute drive. I just didn't know any difference because I was only ten years old. Of course the older I got, I started paying more attention to LSU. The only two recruiting trips I went on was to Texas A&M and LSU. Texas A&M has a great school and has a great campus. But being from Louisiana and knowing what Tiger Stadium was all about, that left pretty much no doubt that's where I was going to go.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Coach Gerry DiNardo?
Tommy - Yeah there are a lot of things that can be said about Gerry DiNardo. He was a great recruiter. I think right around the time that I was recruited they were just starting to rank recruiting classes and he had a top 10 class at that time.. He landed Cecil Collins, he brought in Kevin Faulk. He was a really really good recruiter. Actually he wasn't a bad coach. I just think a couple of years when I was there they had some things that happened. I just don't think he made right decisions on personnel and it cause a downward spiral that ended up costing him his job. As far as a man, I respect him. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about him as a person and neither as a coach. I think he just made a couple of bad decisions, which a lot of people do sometimes. But I haven't seen him since he left LSU. I know he did some coaching at other schools and I think maybe he was a commentator for a little while. But I haven't heard about where he is now. I wouldn't even know.
Q - How did you and the team handle the coaching change with Saban coming in as the new head coach?
Tommy - When they announced that he was the coach they held a team meeting. I didn't know about the meeting. I don't remember where I was. Back then everyone didn't have cell phones like we do now. So they just trying to let the word go out. But I wasn't at the very first meeting. I also heard it wasn't a very good meeting. He basically took a look at the team and said he didn't think we would be able to win any ball games just from looking at us. I think he did that just to try to get us going a little bit. He was one of those guys that makes you say, “What have we gotten into?”... but as the season went on by the end of the year you liked him a lot. It's kind of crazy now because he's like the devil here in Louisiana. But I still respect him as a coach and a person. When I hear the hate, I say, “ Yeah I get why you hate him..” … I still respect him and I still root for him when he's not playing LSU of course just because I know what kind of guy he is.
Q - Can you tell us about your favorite games or moments you've had as a LSU Tiger?
Tommy - Yes, of course I know the game that stands out the most is the ‘97 game against Florida, the big Sports Illustrated game. We had played a few games already and I remember the first SEC game was against Mississippi State at State and we won that game. I remember in the locker room after we had such a big celebration. I wasn't used to that. I wasn't used to a regular-season win causing that kind of celebration. That's when I started to realize how important every single game was in college football. In high school it's different. You could lose a couple of games during the regular season and still be fine after you get into the playoffs. When you're in college of course it's a lot different. Then that Florida game comes along and I remember I was warming up on the field, stretching before the game and Steve Spurrier was walking by only a couple of yards away from me and I just remember thinking, that's when I really realize that this is Big Time football. With us winning that game I'm sure he threw his visor a lot. That win was such a big moment.
Another big moment was my last game in the 2000 Peach Bowl. I ended up catching two touchdown passes and we ended up coming back to win that game. That game is also known for Rohan Davey making his appearance in the second half and leading the team to victory. So those were a couple of big moments during my freshman and Senior year. My sophomore and junior years are the kind of years that I’d like to forget about a little.
Q - When your career at LSU came to an end, did you try to move on and play in the NFL?
Tommy - Yes I signed a contract with the 49ers. I went out to camp a couple of times with them. Tom Rathman was their running backs coach at the time, and of course he's known as perhaps the best fullback in 49ers’ history. He was friends with our strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt, who told me I had a good chance to make the team and be the backup fullback with the 49ers and get some playing time. So I went out to a couple of mini camps, then at one point while I was out there it finally hit me that my love for football wasn't there anymore. I've been playing since I was 5 years old and as far back as I could remember. I just didn't have that drive anymore and I knew that at that level you couldn't get by just on talent alone, you have to want to be out there. So I turned in my playbook. I left, came back and finished school and here I am today. However many years later and four kids later and now a family practice Doctor.
Q - Can you tell us a little about what you do now that your playing days are over?
Tommy - I had a couple of odd jobs after I completed college and decided that wasn't what I wanted to do.
My childhood goal of being a professional athlete, I had the opportunity but ended up turning it down.
So sure enough I had an opportunity to go to med school and ended up doing that and finished up. Did residency here in Monroe. Now I have a clinic in West Monroe, Family Practice Clinic. I'm seeing patients of all ages. I'm married, have four kids with one on the way. We are having our fifth child in November.
Q - Is there anything you would like to tell the LSU fans?
Tommy - It's been said time and time again by current and previous players that LSU fans are the greatest. There has never been a time that when I needed something, someone didn't step up. When I was in medical school I had some rotations down in Baton Rouge. I had a family down there that took me in and let me stay there. They were big LSU fans. They are all over the country. When I was in school I did some rotations in different parts of the country and there are LSU fans everywhere that would give you the shirt off of their back for you. Such a wonderful experience. Then they have the games in Tiger Stadium. You can't ask for anything better than that. It was an amazing experience. I've met a lot of amazing people and I'm proud to say that I'm a LSU Tiger.