Roaming in the secondary for the BC Lions north of the border, former Mississippi State defensive back Korey Banks stands as the only Bulldog representative in the Canadian Football League.
The former Bulldog is in his tenth season in the CFL, his eighth with the Lions after spending two seasons in Ottawa.
Before playing in the CFL, Banks began his profession football career as a member of the Miami Dolphins practice squad before playing in the team's final two games in 2003.
"I was a hometown kid, and it was a great experience," said Banks. "I got caught up in the business side. When you don't get drafted, you put yourself behind the eight ball behind guys who are already drafted and have guaranteed money. I had a chance to go back, but I came to the CFL at the end of 2004, and it just took off from there. The next year, I led the league in interceptions with ten. I got all the accolades you could possibly have, a contract, and the rest was history. I found a home here."
In 2004, he spent time with the Edminton Eskimos before being traded to the Ottawa Renegades. Ottawa ceased operations in 2006, and Banks went to the Lions as the sixth overall pick in the dispersal draft.
"We didn't have any knowledge of it in 2005, so I didn't really find out until after the 2005 season," Banks said of the dispersal draft. "The owners had already signed me to a five year deal, and right before we started training camp was when we started hearing we might fold. It wasn't a big change because I knew going into the dispersal draft that whoever drafted you had to pick up your contract. I was still in the driver's seat. It really wasn't a big shock, but I was still too young and naive to really know what was happening."
While Banks was drafted to a team that would win the Grey Cup the following year, he noted that things did not work out as well for all of his teammates.
"I got picked up by the best team, I believe, in the league at that time, and the next year we won the championship," said Banks. "Selfishly, it worked out for me, but some guys on the team I played with didn't get picked up."
In his career, Banks has notched 35 interceptions, five of which he returned for touchdowns. He has also forced 12 fumbles and has returned two fumbles for touchdowns while picking up 21 career sacks.
Statistically, Banks' best year came in 2005 when he snagged ten interceptions, which led the league, returning two for touchdowns for Ottawa. He also finished third in the league in 2006 with seven interceptions, and his six interceptions in 2008 left him with the second highest total that season.
His five interception returns for touchdowns leaves him ranked tied for ninth all time in the league.
"My career is not said and done, so it is kind of hard for me to relive those moments about myself," said Banks of his career totals. "It is really hard for me to think about the numbers because I am still going. I know one day I am going to sit down and really look at it and analyze it, but at this point now, those numbers are average to me because I did it, and I am always looking to do better.
In his career, Banks has been named an All-Star on five occasions (2005, 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2012). In addition, he garnered CFL East All-Star honors in 2005, and he has picked CFL West All-Star honors from 2006-2012.
Banks also hoisted the Grey Cup in 2006, his first year with the BC Lions.
"It was an unforgettable moment," said Banks describing winning the Grey Cup. "It is one of those moments where if you have accomplished something in life that you really didn't know if you could do it, it's one of those out of body experiences. Looking at the guys that, for lack of a better word, you went to war with on the field, everyday in practice, the weight room everyday in the offseason lifting, studying the playbook, hanging around with each other getting camraderie together, when you win with those guys, it is unbelieveable. It is something that lives with you for a little while, but the next year, you better forget about it becuase it starts over again. It was a great feeling, I wish I could share it with everybody, but unfortunatley you can't. I want to win another one, I'll tell you that."
While it has been over a decade since Banks last played at Mississippi State, he still follows the program, and he likes the progress the team is making.
"When I was there, we had a lot of capable players at the time, but we just didn't get it done," said Banks of the 2001 and 2002 seasons.
"In the last few years with the different coaches and offensive-minded guys in there, they have been making big strides," said Banks. "We are definitly a team in the (SEC) West that can compete. I don't know if we are national championship bound yet, but I could see it happening in the near future if they can broaden the recruiting horizons a little more."
It was the recruiting process, according to Banks, that got him to Starkville.
"I was in junior college, and I could have pretty much handpicked where I wanted to go," said Banks of his decision to come to Mississippi State. "Honestly, it was the recruitment. Melvin Smith and John Hendrick just felt like father figures to me. My father was not around much, so at that time in my life, it felt right. I just made the decision, went there, and don't regret any of it."
"My two years there let me have a good time, help me mature into a man, and change my path," said Banks.