Banks\' senior season the beginning of a new start

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COLUMBIA - Bryce Banks could easily get wrapped up in the uncertainty of his future in football and look lost on the field. However, the Rock Bridge senior has decided to let the future take care of itself.

"You can't let the game be bigger than you, that's what I tell my teammates," Banks said. "You've got to go out there and make the best of it, because you don't get too many of these, especially us seniors."

Banks, a senior defensive back, surprised some people this summer when he decided to break his commitment to play for MU. Banks said he talked to his mother and Rock Bridge football coach A.J. Ofodile, as well as other friends and family members who impact his decisions. He said he's giving up a "great program" and "one of the best development programs in the nation" in Missouri.

"I was the one who came up with the conclusion," Banks said. "Me staying here wasn't best for me. As a person, it wasn't in my best interests. So I decided to be a man and make that sacrifice."

Banks said he's seen many of his family and friends go to jail or end up "lost in life." He said he could benefit from a new start.

"That was the main reason," Banks said. "I wanted to get away and go somewhere new, start somewhere new - and just focus on football and school."

A.J. Ofodile, a former tight end at Missouri, has served as a mentor to Banks. Ofodile said he's not trying to influence where Banks goes to college.

"It's really not my role as a high school coach to pick a school for kids," Ofodile said. "I didn't pick a school for my own son [Alex Ofodile, Oregon Ducks] so I'm definitely not going to pick a school for someone else's kid.

"More than anything, I'm a big picture person," Ofodile said. "If a young man is going on to fulfill his dreams, and his post-secondary education opportunities, I'm good with that."

The Rock Bridge coach also said he's happy Banks has turned the corner and not gone down the path like some of his family and friends.

"[Bryce] has gotta go where he's going to be happy. He's going to be the one playing, not me. Nobody's offered me a scholarship, so that choice is all up to him," Ofodile said.

Ofodile had praise for Banks, saying his role would be more and more important as the season progresses.

"He's a great cover guy," Ofodile said. "He's got length, he's got speed. He's a leader in the secondary. He's a veteran, an experienced kid, and he brings toughness."

Banks said he sees a lot of potential in his team, which has gone 1-1 this year.

"I think this year is our most relationship-based team out of all my years being at Rock Bridge. I'm feeling a lot of energy out there," Banks said. "I'm not taking nothing for granted."

Banks said he plans on enrolling in college classes a semster early - once he's done playing this autumn - and deciding on a school soon. He said he's still touring Division 1 schools, but the two-star prospect will let the future take care of itself.

"Just think about the now, don't think about the past or don't think about the future," Banks said. "Just focus on that play and let everything go, and it just happens. It tends to be fun that way, playing football. Just cut loose and have less problems."

Battling the Spartans

Rock Bridge will have its hands full with defending Class 5 state champion Battle Spartans. The game provides extra intensity because Justin Conyers, a former Rock Bridge football coach, leads Battle. Several former Hickman football players also dress for Battle now.

"It's going to be exciting," Ofodile said. "There's a lot of relationships invovled with kids and coaches in both programs, and we're going to have a great crowd. It'll be fun, at the end of the day, it's a Week 3 game."

Said Banks: "They've got some good receivers that I've got a good chance to gup and guard against; I know they're going to try me. I'm ready for that. I think it's going to be a fun game, with the atmosphere and everything."

Rock Bridge defeated Battle 25-11 when the teams met in 2014. Almost a full calendar year has passed since that meeting, and much has changed for both teams. Ofodile said his team is still a "work in progress."