MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For a few tense days during mid-August, Icky Banks feared his college career was finished.
Only two weeks shy of starting his 13th consecutive game at cornerback in West Virginia’s opener against Alabama, Banks’ senior season hung in the balance after an academic eligibility issue forced him to be held out of practice.
“I felt empty inside,” Banks said Tuesday during his first interview in six weeks. “It was devastating. I felt like I was letting my team down.”
As MetroNews first reported on Aug. 18, there was concern within the program that Banks would be banned for the entire season, before the NCAA ultimately imposed a three-game suspension.
“I did think (the penalty) might have been worse, because you never know,” he said, declining to offer specifics into the academic situation.
While Banks admitted he might forever regret being left at campus while his teammates played in the Georgia Dome, he didn’t spend his suspension moping. Rather he humbled himself by embracing a role with the scout-team defense and challenging Kevin White and Mario Alford in practice.
“I had to tell myself, ‘You got yourself into this, so you’ve got to do the time. Do this time and you’ll be back.’ I had to keep myself motivated,” Banks said. “I got to guard the best wide receivers in the Big 12, so that kept me on point.”
His practice competition brought out the best in White—who enjoyed a monstrous first month of the season—and helped West Virginia’s overall passing attack.
Said quarterback Clint Trickett: “We’d be watching (practice) film and it would be, like, ‘Dang, he keeps making plays. But wait, that’s also our starting cornerback. He’s expected to do that.’ He made us better the three weeks he was out.”
Upon being reinstated in Week 4, Banks played every snap against Oklahoma, starting in the spot vacated by another suspended cornerback, sophomore Daryl Worley. Facing a misdemeanor battery charge after an altercation with a female student, Worley has been indefinitely suspended since Sept. 15.
Banks said he makes sure to offer encouragement when he sees Worley working out in the stadium weight room.
“We make mistakes—that’s life,” said Banks. “He’s down about not being able to play, but he has a positive attitude that things will work out in his favor, and he’ll be back in no time.”