Saturday, August 14, 2010

Redskins find Garner speedster who does the John Wall dance

The Washington Redskins may have found its fastest player since Darrell Green in the person of Garner native Brandon Banks.

Banks, wearing the No. 16, returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the Redskins 45-17 romp over the Buffalo Bills in preseason action. The Redskins, under new head coach Mike Shanahan, are looking for more production from the special teams, which failed to get a touchdown on any runback last season.

Banks stands just 5-foot-6 and weighs less than 150 pounds. Compare that to hall of famer Darrell Green who was 5-9, 180 pounds and called himself "itty bitty." While it wasn't as spectacular as Green's famous hurdling 50-plus-yard punt return for a TD in the 1987 playoffs against the Bears, Banks blew by and through five or six defenders to remind Redskins' fans of days gone by.

After getting in the end zone, Banks paid tribute to his fellow Triangle buddy John Wall, the Washington Wizards rookie, by performing Wall's signature dance. To read more about the connection between the two and to watch the return, please click here.

Receiver Devin Thomas came into the game as the top kick returner while defensive back Phillip Buchanon was slated as the first-team punt returner. Neither distinguished themselves in the game. In fact, Thomas muffed the opening kickoff. (To be fair, Banks earlier dropped a punt as well.) And, depending on other roster desires, Banks, who is listed as a receiver, could fail to make the team because he doesn't figure to play anywhere else except on special teams.

While it was just one return, if Redskins special teams coordinator Danny Smith goes by his own words, Banks has a good chance of making the team.

"I want a guy that's sure-handed so we don't have to worry about catching the ball. I want a guy with a quick first step, I want a guy with toughness, I want a guy with good vision, I want a guy with good balance, I want a guy that can make somebody miss, I want a guy that can take it the distance," he said.

It appears Banks fits the bill except maybe being "tough." Although former Redskins returner Brian Mitchell says "toughness" comes down to something besides brute strength or even the physical ability to take a hit. Mitchell says the one muscle they don't test at combine is heart.

Banks, who went undrafted out of Kansas State, was a two-time all-conference football selection at Garner High School and was named to the USA Today's All-USA high school track and field team in 2006.

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