Oct. 15, 2013
RUSTON, La. - D.J. Banks has felt a lot of love throughout his life -his love for God, his love for his family and his love for football - so when it came time to choose a school, it was Tulane that showed him the most love in return.
A two-year standout for the West Monroe Rebels, Banks went on to play receiver and special teams for the Green Wave for two seasons, but at the conclusion of the 2010 season, the love he originally felt began to fade.
"First and foremost, Tulane is a great place and a terrific program," Banks said. "I formed a bond with the players and a lot of the coaches, and enjoyed the time I spent there, but I just felt like I had something more in me. I didn't feel like I was reaching my full potential playing."
Banks asked for and was granted a transfer. He was leaving New Orleans. His destination was unknown.
"It was a difficult process," Banks remembered. "Leading up to my decision, I prayed about it and I felt like God led me to Louisiana Tech. I needed to be in a place that brought out the best in me."
D.J.'s father, who he describes as his "best friend," said Tulane felt like the right place for his son at the time, but due to a lack of challenges, a change was imminent.
"Initially, he was very excited to go to Tulane," Don Sr. said. "They recruited him very heavily and told him a lot of things that didn't seem to come to fruition. He was mainly concerned about being challenged and being maxed out as an athlete. Louisiana Tech became an option for him immediately because of the type of program they had."
Having a fresh start at a program just 30 miles from his hometown, Banks still dealt with setbacks, including having to sit out the 2011 season due to the NCAA transfer rule.
"When you transfer anywhere, you start completely over," he said. `Coming to Tech, I didn't know when I would get on the field. I knew I would have to sit out a year. I was able to sit back and learn a lot. It not only made me a better football player, but it made me a better person as well, dealing with that adversity. Eventually, I managed to work my way up the depth chart and it is working out perfectly now just like I imagined."
With D.J. experiencing so much success at Louisiana Tech, it would have been easy to let his foot off the pedal, but with the upbringing he had, coasting to the finish line was not an option.
Growing up, D.J. was certain of two things: faith and football. Born in 1991 in Fort Polk, La., D.J. was raised by Don Sr., an Assembly of God preacher, and Sharlanski Banks.
Lessons on life's priorities were repeatedly taught through both his parents and his upbringing in a church environment.
"I grew up in the church," D.J. said. "I grew up knowing to put God first and live first and foremost for Christ. That is the reason why I play football - to give glory to God. That is the most important thing in my life and I center everything around my faith."
Don Sr. said the time his son spent around the Christian faith has greatly impacted him both on the football field and in his daily life.
"I think it has shaped the way he thinks, which ultimately shapes the way he makes decisions," his father said. "Growing up in the church was a very positive thing for him. It made him appreciate things like hard work, dedication and commitment. The church teaches all of those life principles that make you a better person and man."
The impact made was a strong one. Once his football career comes to an end, D.J. plans to follow in his father's footsteps and go into ministry, a decision that Don Sr. has no qualms about.
"I could not be any more proud," Don Sr. said. "I don't think there is a parent alive more proud than I am. The way he is approaching life and his priorities in life - he has some definite goals he wants to accomplish in the secular world, but he has a strong understanding, ultimately, of where he is supposed to be. I am very proud of that. I didn't raise him to be a preacher, but it is comforting knowing he has made the decision to pursue it and find himself in that lifestyle."
When Tulane travels up the state of Louisiana to battle the Bulldogs, while pride is sure to be on the line for Banks, getting the victory with his LA Tech teammates is the No. 1 priority for the wide receiver.
"I am most excited about seeing old friends and teammates," he admitted. "We formed that bond going into college, but I am approaching this as just another game. Of course I am excited about playing my old team, but I treat each opponent with same respect and that way the game takes care of itself. I just make sure to go out and have fun."
While the senior wide receiver is on the gridiron battling his former teammates Thursday night, one thing is certain. Don Sr. and the rest of the Banks clan will be in the stands showing their support like they have always done, and that is just the way D.J. prefers it.
"Having a supportive family when things get tough - it gives you strength to keep going," he said. "I get a different type of motivation from my family. When I step onto the field, I am not only playing for my team and the players around me, but I also play for my last name."