LB Banks faced strong college competition (Photo Source)
The Buffalo Bills have had good luck in recent history with undrafted free agents. Players such as OT Jason Peters, LB John DiGiorgio, CB Jabari Greer, WR Justin Jenkins and S Jim Leonhard - just to name a few current and former Bills that were not drafted - have become solid contributors to the team at varying levels.
So when an undrafted player from a known excellent special teams college with solid athleticism is signed as a UDFA at a position where depth is an issue, the chances of that player sticking are high - especially, apparently, in Buffalo.
Rookie linebacker Jon Banks ran a sub-4.7 40 yard dash in pre-draft workouts. However, despite solid athleticism, he went undrafted. Now, he's a Buffalo Bill, diligently working through the off-season in attempt to stick at a position (middle/outside linebacker) where depth isn't set in stone. Banks was kind enough to take some time out of his pre-training camp preparations to let Buffalo Rumblings know about his experiences as a Bill to date. Here is our interview with Banks in its entirety:
Buffalo Rumblings: How have your first couple of months been as a Buffalo Bill? What are your impressions of the franchise, your coaches and your teammates?
Jon Banks: It has been a great experience as a Buffalo Bill. I feel that we have a great coaching staff. You can tell that the coaching staff cares a lot about their players.
BR: Your versatility allowed you to play several different positions in college. Which linebacker position are you most comfortable at?
Banks: I am comfortable at all three positions. I played outside linebacker in college, but now playing middle linebacker I feel that I will be good there as well.
BR: You'll be playing a lot of special teams in Buffalo, in all likelihood. How does it feel to be hand-selected for this duty by a team that has boasted some of the league's best special teams units of the past five years?
Banks: This is a great opportunity for me to be part of a tremendous special steams unit of the Buffalo Bills. Coach April does a great job of teaching us our responsibilities so we can execute. I am very thankful that they picked me to be a part of this great special teams unit.
BR: You spent the 2005 season playing special teams under coach DeMontie Cross. What's it been like playing for your old coach again?
Banks: It feels good to be reunited with my old coach. He didn’t take it easy on me in college and he is the same way now and I like that about him.
BR: Has it been helpful having familiar faces such as Cross and Alvin Bowen around to ease your transition to the NFL?
Banks: Yes it has, most players go into the NFL by themselves but I have been lucky enough to come here with two people that I know. It makes everything that much more comfortable.
BR: Which offensive Bills player have you been most impressed with during spring practices?
Banks: Marshawn Lynch. He is a lot faster than I thought.
BR: One last question: if there's one fact Bills fans should know about Jon Banks, that fact is...
Banks: When I was a kid I would get in trouble for always carrying a football with me no matter were I went. Also, I ran the 60 Meter Dash for the Iowa State track team.
Since coming to Buffalo, Banks has bulked up to 232 pounds, up from his college playing weight in the low 220s. He has been getting third-team reps at middle linebacker (behind Paul Posluszny and John DiGiorgio), but after playing outside linebacker as well as safety in college, he has the athleticism to play the weak side in Buffalo's scheme as well. It's Banks' experience as a special teams ace, however, that should translate to the NFL, and his familiarity with Cross gives him an inside shot at sticking in that role.
Many thanks to Jon and his agent, Rob Roche, for taking the time to chat with us Rumblers. We wish Jon the best of luck in his effort to make the team's final 53-man roster; we'll be monitoring his training camp progress closely. Thanks, Jon!