“Know Your Jaguars” is a series of articles that will focus on Jaguar players from the past. Some were All-pros. Some came and went quickly. Some were everything you would want to remember. Some I wish I could forget. Regardless, they were all part of the Jaguars family and are part of their history. If one of my articles introduces you to a player you weren’t familiar with, than my effort was productive.
In the first of a series, we will turn our attention to running back Tavian Banks.
1998 will always be remembered by Jacksonville Jaguars’ fans as the year they drafted eventual Ring of Honor recipient Fred Taylor. A few, however, will never forget the 5-foot-10 running back drafted in the fourth round out of the University of Iowa named Tavian Banks.
Brought in to compliment Taylor’s “between the tackle” running style, Banks was a quick kid who could catch the ball out of the backfield. He was more inclined to juke you out of your jock than run you over.
It was uncommon for NFL teams to draft a running back with their first round pick and then select another in the fourth round. It was an inspired attempt by Tom Coughlin to continue his “running back by committee” philosophy.
Though Banks had experienced some injury issues in college, he was mostly healthy over his last two collegiate years and was recognized as one of the nation’s most celebrated RBs. After a stellar senior campaign, he was voted an All-American and won Big Ten Player of the Year honors. He held the Hawkeyes’ single season rushing record for over 10 years. He still holds their career touchdown total.
The reason Banks is not well known is because he was injured much of his 1998 rookie year, playing only six games. The preseason of 1999 showed a timid Banks who started making a name for himself with flashes of brilliance. I still remember a preseason game that had Banks in the open field with a safety lining him up for the big hit. After a shift, Banks stutter-stepped and then hurdled the tackler. It may have only helped gain another couple of yards, but the gasps from the stadium was deafening. We all knew this kid could be a star.
Tavian Banks career was cut short in November of the 1999 season by a cowardly out-of-bounds hit. His shredded knee never fully recovered. Tavian busted his butt and rehabbed like a beast. Two long years later, Tavian attempted a comeback with the New Orleans Saints. He was considerably less quick, definitely less shifty, and only a shell of the awesome athlete he was pre-injuries. Yet he still earned the right to be on the Saints practice squad. It was a testament to his drive and natural talent. Tavian obviously sensed that this would be as much as he could achieve and chose to walk away with his head held high.
Tavian Banks is out of the league now. He is remembered by few. I contend that a healthy Tavian Banks, along with Fred Taylor’s impressive second year, may have been the difference in the Jaguars’ unsuccessful run to the Super Bowl. I also state with one hundred percent clarity and honesty that a healthy Tavian Banks could have mirrored the Jaguar career that Maurice Jones Drew would have years later. Unfortunately we will never know.
Tavian could have gone on to a successful business career but the call of athletics harkened him back. Assistant coaching on both the high school and college level fueled his competitive nature. Tavian was a Sports Performance Director for Extreme Speed while also continuing to work with high school athletes. He is now the founder and CEO of Carpe Diem Sports Enhancements. If he reads this and would like to discuss his brief but momentous time with the Jags, I would be honored to speak to him.
Tavian Banks is, and will always be, one of my favorite Jacksonville Jaguar players. Even now, fifteen years later, I continue to wish the football gods had been kinder to him. I hope he does read this article one day and smiles. God knows, he gave me a few.
“Know Your Jaguar” series written by Michael McDonald
Say hi and offer suggestions on Twitter @Gumbussy