(Story by Taylor Kennedy)
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The bond that championship teams display is something special. Those kinds of teams are fun to watch because they’re winning together. That can be said with 2019 Martinsburg Bulldogs.
Martinsburg defeated the Cabell Midland Knights 49-21 at Wheeling Island last December in the Class AAA championship game. The Bulldogs were led by senior quarterback Elijah Banks. He threw for 187 yards (180 in the first half) and five touchdowns. Banks believes that the brotherhood Martinsburg had makes that team different from previous squads.
“Everybody knows everybody on the team. Everybody knew their names, backgrounds and life stories. We were together every single day. There was always that connection between everyone,” says Banks.
Banks recalled back to his kindergarten days at Rosemont Elementary School with his teammates. He believes that the bond does not date back to their freshman year of high school, but rather a 13-year relationship that has always been there.
Along with Banks’ teammates, his relationship with head coach Dave Walker will always be special. Banks enjoys the fact that he does not always have to talk football with his coach. He admires that he can go to him for life advice and teaching him tough love.
“He’s definitely influenced my life a lot. He definitely taught me tough love. But, I honestly thought at one point he didn’t like me,” says Banks.
Banks used to talk to his dad about how he felt about the situation. He remembers that his dad used to always tell him that he is his coach first then a friend second. “I would talk to my dad about it. This is my coach, he should like me [he told his dad]. My dad would say that as a coach he doesn’t have to like someone, but rather coach them,” says Banks.
It was not until a 7-on-7 football camp at West Virginia University that their relationship would start building to what it is today. Banks said that he was down, and he was talking to one of the assistant coaches. Walker then proceeded to talk to Banks. From that conversation, Banks saw that Walker believed in him.
After celebrating the team’s fourth straight championship, Banks knew he had to make a decision for college. He had offers from Mercyhurst University, Wheeling University, Glenville State College, West Liberty University, and a walk-on spot at Eastern Kentucky University.
Concord was not on Banks’ radar at the time. It was not until January 21st when he finally got that offer. He received the offer from a program that had recently hired Walker. Banks knew that it was time to make a decision.
On February 3rd, Banks announced on Twitter that he would continue his athletic career at Concord with the coach that stuck with him through thick and thin.
— Elijah Banks (@Banks5Elijah) February 3, 2020
“It definitely encouraged me to go there a lot. Considering the fact that we’ve been together for four years, and what we’ve done for four years. Going into a new environment knowing that I can trust the head coach. It will definitely help getting adjusted to the college life,” says Banks on how Walker being the coach at Concord helped make his decision.
That bond that Walker has with not only Banks, but other Bulldogs led to MetroNews Player of the Year, Jarod Bowie, committing there as well.
Banks has been doing everything he can to stay in football shape with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing. His dad bought him an all-around workout machine his freshman year to stay in shape. He has been focusing more on his 15-yard out routes.
“I’ve definitely been pounding 15-yard routes and in. I believe my deep game is pretty good, but it can definitely improve. My short game still needs a lot of work,” says Banks.
Banks will battle Matt Shearer for the starting quarterback position next season.