INDIANAPOLIS — When Deonte “Tae” Banks was about 11 years old, he’d spend his Sundays running up a hill, training on his days off from youth football practice. On Friday, his 22nd birthday — March 3rd, or 3/3, which is why he wears jersey No. 3 — Banks ran on a flatter surface but a grander stage as he prepared for how he’ll spend his Sundays this fall.
The 6-foot, 197-pound Banks dashed 40 yards in front of scores of pro scouts in Lucas Oil Stadium at the NFL scouting combine, unofficially clocking it in a speedy 4.36 seconds as he seeks to provide another reason, in a long list, why he should be a first-round pick in next month’s draft.
Banks, a cornerback, graduated from Edgewood High School and went on to stand out at the University of Maryland. However, in 2021, he suffered the toughest setback in his young career when he injured his shoulder, prematurely ending his junior season and placing his career on hold. He bounced back in a big way with a productive senior year; when targeted, he allowed opponents to complete only 43% of their passes, per Pro Football Focus.
This year’s class of cornerback prospects is full of talent. Ravens coach John Harbaugh estimated there are 10 players at the position who could be picked in the first two rounds.
“It’s loaded,” he said. “And they’re all great players, they’re all potential starters, first-year starters.”
Banks is among that group, and there’s a chance he could be picked by the Ravens, who might be in need of a cornerback. That would be a “dream come true,” said Banks, a Baltimore native.
Before he was an honorable mention All-Big Ten Conference pick in 2022 and a three-star recruit out of high school, Banks was a kid who relished football enough that he’d often ask his parents to take him to a nearby hill so he could sprint up it.
“He’s just one of those special kids, man,” his father, Jamal Banks, said this week. “He never ceases to amaze you.”
His mother, Laura Banks, remembered that Banks made the academic honor roll almost every semester of school, while also obsessing over improving on the field.
“He was always trying to be the best at everything he did,” she said.
The initial goal was to play in college, which Banks did by staying in state and signing with the Terps. His attention then shifted to the pro ranks, but that was derailed by the shoulder injury during a game against Howard in early September 2021. Soon after, he learned he’d need surgery and that he would be sidelined for months.
“That was such a sad day,” Laura Banks said.
“He literally broke down,” his father said.
The painful prognosis was challenging for the fun-loving Banks, who counts dancing among his favorite hobbies. As he was forced to patiently recover, his parents tried to buoy his spirits. His father repeated to him that it was a minor setback and he was preparing for a major comeback.
That comeback came this past season when, nearly a year after the injury, Banks returned to action. He excelled for the Terps, who won eight games for the first time in a decade, and rocketed up draft boards. After a standout combine performance that included a 42-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot, 4-inch broad jump — elite marks for his position — he will likely be picked in either the first or second round.
“I’m a positive guy. I come with a lot of energy. And I’m a lockdown corner,” Banks said this week in Indianapolis, answering what he wants NFL teams to know about him. “I physically impose my will on people, all game.”
Fellow Maryland defensive back Jakorian Bennett also participated in the NFL combine — running an unofficial 4.31 in the 40-yard dash — and he described Banks as loud, energetic and always laughing.
“Deonte, I’ve never seen him have a down day,” Bennett said.
Banks is the crown jewel of this year’s Terps draft class, which is one of the best in school history. The record for Maryland players picked in a seven-round draft is five (2004 and 2009), but seven Terps were invited to this year’s combine. Banks is expected to be the first one to hear his name called in April.
“I feel like he’s one of the best corners in this draft,” Maryland wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. said.
Some mock drafts project Banks as high as No. 23 overall while others see him as being picked at No. 60 or later.
Regardless, Banks will have ascended to the pinnacle of the sport. He’s likely to spend Sundays this fall running in lockstep with NFL receivers, rather than sprinting up hills.