REGINA — Brandon Banks isn't embarrassed to admit he’s desperate to win a Grey Cup championship.
Banks, who joined the Toronto Argonauts for the 2022 season after eight years with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, is heading into his fifth Grey Cup game but he’s yet to win a CFL championship. The Tiger-Cats lost to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2013, the Calgary Stampeders in 2014 and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 2019 and 2021.
Banks, who will turn 35 on Dec. 21, recognizes that time is running out for him to earn a Grey Cup ring.
"I’m 0-for-4 so I’m desperate right now. I’m desperate, I’ve got to do whatever I have to do. It’ll be the icing on the cake for my career," said Banks, who caught 37 passes for 522 yards and four touchdowns in 2022. "I’m pretty much ring chasing. I’ve done everything there is to do but win a Grey Cup so I’m trying to work hard to win a Grey Cup."
Since joining the Tiger-Cats in 2013 after three seasons in the NFL with Washington, Banks has fashioned an impressive CFL career. In addition to numerous East Division and CFL all-star accolades, Banks was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 2019 and the Most Outstanding Special Teams Player in 2015.
His reputation as an electrifying kick returner is well deserved. Banks has returned seven punts, five missed field goals and one kickoff for touchdowns in 127 regular season CFL games.
Argos defensive lineman Ja’Gared Davis is heading into his sixth consecutive Grey Cup game. He played his first three with the Stampeders before signing with the Tiger-Cats in 2019.
Part of his mission when joining the Ticats was helping Banks win a Grey Cup. They weren’t able to do that with Hamilton, but they now have another chance with Toronto.
"We've known each other for a long time and when I went to Hamilton in 2019, I told him my goal was to get him a Grey Cup. This is an opportunity, I know who we’re playing for, guys like Banks," said Davis, who has a record of one win and four defeats in his five Grey Cup games.
"There’s also an endless list of people who I will be putting it all out for because they deserve the opportunity."
Banks believes the Argos will benefit from Davis's leadership and guidance.
"You’ve got a guy that’s went to the Grey Cup six times in a row so you should follow his lead. Obviously, we were unsuccessful in 2019 and 2021 but we’re here with another opportunity and we want to take advantage of that opportunity,” said the five-foot-seven, 150-pound Banks.
Banks said he wasn't aware of the CFL while playing in college and the NFL until he crossed paths with veteran CFL receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux while with Washington in 2012. When Washington chose not to re-sign Banks for the 2013 season, he decided to give the CFL a chance and signed with the Tiger-Cats.
Now nine seasons into his CFL career, Banks understands how difficult it is to win a league championship.
“It's definitely hard,” said Banks. “I wouldn't say it's easy to get to the Grey Cup but if you're on a good team, everything kind of works out in your favour, but it's hard to win. You’ve got to be focused on that day. I wouldn't say the best team always wins the Grey Cup. You’ve got to come focused on that day and play the best football on that day.”
The Bombers, who won the West Division title with a 15-3-0 record, enter the game as the two-time defending champion. Their roster is chock-full of championship game experience with 68 Grey Cup appearances.
The Argos, who finished first in the East Division with an 11-7-0 mark, have a less experienced roster with 24 Grey Cup appearances.
Banks recognizes that it will be up to veterans like himself, Davis and quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson to help their teammates prepare for Sunday’s game and not be overwhelmed by the big stage.
"You just try to explain to them what the week is going to be like and just try to preach to them that whatever got you here, continue doing the same thing. It’s a bigger game on a bigger stage but it’s still football,” said Banks, who has 459 career receptions for 6,200 yards and 48 touchdowns. "I’ll try to give them as much insight as I can to help them prepare and be ready for anything that could come at them."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2022.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press