Morgan's Role Model

November 01, 1993

Coaches love to give lectures on the virtues of football as a metaphor for life. No one in this area has done a more masterful job over the years of making that type of philosophy a reality for hundreds of young men than former Morgan State head coach and athletic director Earl Banks, who died last week at age 69.

Earl Banks is in the College Football Hall of Fame for achieving stunning results at Morgan State over a 14-year period (a 31-game win streak, a 95-30-2 overall record). But he deserves to gain a place in the Coaches' Hall of Fame for something else: serving as a mentor and a sage counselor for his student-athletes. To Earl Banks, football was a great training ground to prepare these kids for the rest of their lives.

In some cases, he assumed the role of a second father to these young men. He and his wife, Essie, fed them at their home, put them up if they couldn't afford on-campus housing, even put a few dollars in their pockets to help make ends meet. Most important, he spoon-fed them the values of integrity, individual responsibility and hard work as the key to a successful life.

He was a whale of a football coach. The Morgan State teams of the 1960s and early 1970s played tough, hard, fundamentally sound football, especially in the trenches. For three straight years the Golden Bears of Morgan were undefeated. They won a Tangerine Bowl and an Orange Blossom Classic played at the Orange Bowl. That Coach Banks could achieve so much in spite of the inferior budgets and facilities given to Morgan is an indication of his power as a motivator. That 40 of his players later performed in the professional leagues illustrates his power as a football professor. That so many of these men now look back upon Earl Banks as their special friend and mentor is the greatest compliment of all.

Another Hall of Fame coach, Eddie Robinson of Grambling, said that Earl Banks "darn sure left a lot of himself with his players." Years or even decades after graduating, they still called him "Coach" and thought of him as a second dad, someone to whom they could turn for advice or guidance.

Winning football games was Earl Banks' immediate goal. But he always had a bigger objective in mind, too: watching his adopted "sons" succeed in the larger world beyond the football stadium. As his ex-players will attest, he did, indeed, leave a lot of himself with his players. This community and this state are in his debt.

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