COVINGTON, Ga. -- Alcovy’s 2018 football season has been a campaign filled with triumphs, transitions and a plethora of ups and downs. The Tigers began, hoping to finally put to rest a three-seasons-long losing skid in region play.
The players had gotten bigger, faster and stronger. There was some early-season momentum with wins over Rockdale and a talented Salem team. But injuries, offensive inconsistencies, coaching changes and things that threatened overall team chemistry contributed to a rocky season that’s seen the Tigers lose their last five games while the offense has scored just one touchdown since a 23-20 win at Salem.
One constant in the midst of some of the chaos has been senior defensive end, Jalen Banks.
Banks, a 6-foot, 220 pounder, took a huge step forward as a viable collegiate prospect as he came into Thursday night’s senior night game with Greenbrier in a tie for second for the team lead in tackles (53). His 19 tackles for losses eight quarterback sacks not only lead the team, but are also among the best in the area. With his 3.8 GPA and National Honors Society induction to his credit, he's continued to excel in the classroom as well.
Although Banks will miss out on his goal to help his team make the playoffs, he was willing to sound off his thoughts on the season, his Alcovy career and his future football and academic plans with sports editor, Gabriel Stovall
Gabriel Stovall: You’ve encountered a lot of ups and downs with the team this year, and obviously it’s not ending the way everyone wants it — with a playoff appearance. All that said, how would you describe your senior season of football? What were the biggest highlights? What were the biggest challenges?
Jalen Banks: “I would describe my senior season as a whole as a fun and serious learning experience. Enduring the challenges we’ve had this year taught me that nothing is given and everything is earned, and no matter what is going on around you, all you can do is keep pulling your weight and doing your job and perfecting your craft.
“The highlights of this season for me was being able to play a full season injury free and being able to see all my stats from last year double in every category. Also, scoring my first safety in my entire football career. The biggest challenge overall was having to step up as a senior class, and keep the team focused after the dismissal of coach (Damoio’n) Wright. But having that situation happen taught us all a lesson that no matter what happens or how you feel about something, you can’t quit or give up.”
STOVALL: What do you think you learned through the season that will prepare you for life in college on and off the football field?
BANKS: “Things I learned this year that will prepare me for college is simple: Just keep chopping away and pushing harder to achieve the goals you set for yourself, regardless if it seems like everything is coming down around you.”
STOVALL: This year, you received a guarantee that you’d get a chance to play in college next year in the way of multiple scholarship offers, even getting a couple today before your final game. How many do you currently have? Who’s recruiting you the hardest? Do you have a top 5 and how close are you to making a decision?
BANKS: “I currently hold 12 offers from all the divisions. Those recruiting me the hardest include Stetson, who I’ll be visiting on Saturday, Birmingham Southern, Huntingdon, Milsaps and Allegheny, just to name a few. As of right now, I have a slight gauge of a top number of schools: Stetson, Birmingham Southern, Rhodes, Franklin Pierce and Milsaps are definitely at the top of my list. But I’m giving every opportunity that is presented to me an equal, honest and fair evaluation.
“I feel a decision coming soon, actually, but I will continue to talk with my parents and coaches to truly decide.”
STOVALL: Despite some of the team’s struggles, you’ve managed to remain a pretty consistent presence, especially with your production on the field. What’s helped you maintain your focus?
BANKS: “What’s helped me maintain my focus is simply continuing to push to achieve the goals I set out for this season. For instance, as a whole, I wanted to ensure I made first-team all-region this year, unanimously, instead of second team like last year, as well as pushing for doubled stats in every category. The desire for me to be the best player I can be is what drives me each week.”
STOVALL: What will you miss most about your time playing at Alcovy?
BANKS: “It’s the relationships with the coaches, because they truly use us to be the best while being able to relate to us. I’ll also miss the Hogs Night Out each week, where all the linemen, regardless of grade, go to Stevie B’s and just bond and have a good time with your brothers.”