Deonte Banks, newly-drafted first-round pick of the New York Giants, has had a lot on his plate the past few months.
Physical prep for the NFL Scouting Combine. The combine itself. Interviews with and visits to a myriad of NFL teams. The draft itself.
Now that he is a Giant, there were media obligations. A rookie mini-camp to attend. A practice facility to become acquainted with. New teammates to learn. The New York-New Jersey area to explore. A new defense to master.
Through it all, though, Banks the college student has not let one important thing fall by the wayside. His degree from the University of Maryland.
Terrapins football coach Mike Locksley told Big Blue View in an exclusive phone interview that that story has not been “talked about or told enough.”
So, Locksley told it.
“Here’s a guy that is a first-round pick, 24th pick in a draft, but two days ago he’s down in our study hall facility, finishing up his degree,” Locksley said. “He’s doing study hall, he’s finishing up papers, he’s taking final exams the next week or two. “And most guys in his situation, they take the semester off. They not necessarily finish and wait until their careers are done or come back two, three years from now to finish. He’s getting that piece of paper in the next week or two.”
Locksley has been a college coach since 1992 and has been at major colleges almost exclusively since 1997.
“He’s a guy that always took care of his academics. He’s graduating basically in three and half years,” Locksley said. “Those guys going into the spring of the draft, they take the semester off and focus on that. Well, he’s been able to do both.”
That piece of paper Banks will get from Maryland will grant him a degree in Family Science.
Banks said during rookie mini-camp that he wants to use that degree “working with kids, being a teacher or being a trainer, or a coach.”
“I like seeing the smiles on young kids’ faces,” he said.
Locksley said he “100 percent” expects Banks to quickly become active working with kids in the New York-New Jersey area.
“Anytime we did community service projects and internships and things where we were working with kids from the type of environment that he grew up in, one of the first to jump on board,” Locksley said. “You want to see his personality watch him with the kids, or watch him in the locker room. Don’t judge his personality by his interviews because it’s not something that he likes to do. He doesn’t like talking about himself.”
A year ago, the Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux No. 5 overall. He is not only a force on the field, but a big personality off of it. Thibodeaux seems to prefer dealing with media on his terms, but he can be absolutely entertaining when he wants to be.
Banks is not Thibodeaux.
He may prove to be exactly what the doctor ordered for a press-man heavy Wink Martindale defense that didn’t have enough good cornerbacks last season. He is not, though, a big personality and as Locksley indicated it has quickly become clear that if media is looking for eloquent quotes Banks’ locker won’t be a required stop.
“Ton of humility,” Locksley said. “He’s one of those guys that’s humbled by having the opportunity to be drafted. Whereas some guys come in with the mentality like they were owed something. I think he realizes how lucky and blessed he is to have such an opportunity and to play for such a storied franchise like the New York team.”
Rookie safety Gervarrius Owens, a seventh-round pick,
“Tae, he’s just one of those guys you can just walk in day one and he’s just good vibes, good people,” Owens said. “There are no egos or nothing.”
Banks is not one of those players who has been on the national radar since early in his high school career. He attended Edgewood High School in Edgewood, Md., outside of Baltimore. He stayed despite his obvious talent making him attractive to football powerhouse private schools in Baltimore.
“A lot of our, our top elite athletes are recruited by some of these private schools that are up in Baltimore,” said Edgewood athletic director Sarah Friedman. “Deonte wanted to stay at Edgewood. He wanted the challenge. And I think he was about making a name for himself and trying to make a name for Edgewood as well.”
As far as Friedman and then-football coach Charles Johnson know, Banks was the first Edgewood football player to land a Division I scholarship and now, of course, the first player from the school be drafted by an NFL team.
EHS will be watching to see our alum Deonte Banks representing the Rams in the NFL Draft. Good luck, Deonte!!! pic.twitter.com/A29VFC9asd— RAMMY (@EHSRAMS) April 27, 2023
Syracuse was first on Banks’ trail, followed by a parade of other Division I schools. Johnson said “we were pretty much shocked” when recruiters from the Orange came to see Banks during his junior year. Maryland, Virginia Tech, Pitt and others soon followed, with Banks choosing to stay close to home and play for the Terrapins.
Locksley said it wasn’t hard to see that Banks belonged playing in the upper echelon of college football despite not being on a powerhouse high school team.
“There’s no doubt that you saw the skillset,” Locksley said. “Here’s a guy that was not heavily, heavily recruited. I think he may have had a couple of smaller Division I offers, but had a bunch of the I-AA variety. Played at a program here in the state of Maryland that maybe wasn’t a championship team. But his size and his athleticism was always on display and when you saw that you knew that he’d have a chance to be a special player.
“I’ve had a chance to coach quite a few first-round guys and there’s no doubt that I knew and thought that he’d be the type of player he is.”
Banks has maintained a connection to his high school.
“He loves Edgewood,” Friedman said. “It’s not uncommon to find him on the sideline of a football game. If he could come back and make it, um, he, he would be here.
“If there was an opportunity for him to come back, whether it was homecoming or something like that, he would always say, Ms. Friedman, Ms. Friedman, can you get me on the sideline? Ms. Friedman, can you get me on the sideline? Deonte, I’ve always got a place on my sideline for you.”
Banks was, of course, the first Division I-caliber player Johnson had coached.
“I have coached a lot of kids, but I always wondered what made these first-round, second-round draft picks so much better than the thousands of kids I have coached,” Johnson said. “Well, I found out the reason when I had him in 11th grade. He was just different. If you ever saw Deonte with just his shorts on you could tell he was different from the regular kid his age.”
Johnson remembers that Banks didn’t even own a football as a high school kid. He used to stop at Johnson’s house to borrow one so he could go out and practice.
“I would give them a football, but they had to, they had to give me something back because if I gave em a football, I wouldn’t have seen the football again,” Johnson said. “So they had to give me a wallet or a car, keys or something, make sure I got that football back.”
At Maryland, Locksley saw the same kid who loves football and wanted to get better than Friedman and Johnson saw at Edgewood.
“The three years we’ve had him here and as I’ve people, he’s in my office a lot. But it wasn’t for the wrong reasons. It was, it was for the right reasons,” Locksley said. “He’s one of those guys that likes to be around the football complex. He likes ball. He’s a football guy always looking to get better, always asking, what can I do to become a better player?
“That’s what you love out of a guy and to me that’s the type of player the Giants are getting.”
The Giants are hoping that Banks will help solidify their secondary and perhaps eventually become their No. 1 cornerback.
The one criticism of Banks’ game is that he doesn’t intercept the ball often enough. Banks had nine passes defensed to just one interception in 2022. He had two interceptions in 28 career games at Maryland.
Locksley threw cold wanter on the idea that Banks doesn’t have quality ball skills.
“Very few times when you play with your back to the quarterback, do you come away with interceptions. You typically have a ton of pass breakups” he said. “If you look at the style of defense we’ve played with guys like Deonte and [cornerback] Jakoran Bennett who was drafted by the Raiders, we played a lot of press man and in press man you don’t have vision on the quarterback to see the ball thrown.
“What I’ll tell you is Deonte caught punts, kicks, he was a running back outta high school that had tremendous ball skills. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has the ball skills necessary to make plays ... I think it’s a mis-eval if people think he doesn’t have the ball skills.”
Locksley is bullish on Banks’ NFL future.
“I think he’s a guy that has the ability to be an All-Pro corner and a guy that has the ability to lead and do the necessary things to help the Giants take the next step,” Locksley said. “Because if you look at what he’s been a part of elevating here at Maryland, he came here at a time when the Maryland program was not well respected or not looked upon as a, a strong organization. All he’s done during the three years he’s here is helped elevate it to where we’ve gone the back to back bowl games and won two bowl games in a row, which we haven’t done since 2001. It’s because of guys like Deonte Banks that have played a major role in laying down the foundation that we’re trying to grow and build on.”