THIS STORY ORIGINALLY RAN IN THE WINNIPEG SUN ON OCT. 10, 2011 …
Korey Banks is having a superb season on the football field.
The B.C. Lions linebacker has produced career highs with six sacks and three forced fumbles, and there are still five games to go. The seven-year CFL veteran has only two interceptions, but he believes he can get to his annual goal of five picks and will therefore ultimately be named the West Division’s defensive player of the year — at least.
The trash-talking, swashbuckling 31-year-old is a confident and mentally strong pain in the you-know-what for offences around the league.
And it’s great to see, actually, because no one probably would’ve said a word if Banks had told Wally Buono before the season that he going to stay at home in Georgia and cry until he had no tears left to shed.
That’s because Korey Banks watched his two-year-old son, Khamari, die of cancer in January. He was in that Atlanta hospital room when his frail son was taken off life support and breathed his last breath. Banks had prayed earlier in the week for God to take Khamari.
“You never want to see anybody perish, but that wasn’t my son,” Banks said Sunday at his team’s downtown Winnipeg hotel.
“I didn’t want to see him like that for years and years and years. That wasn’t him.”
Khamari, the third of four Banks children, started having nosebleeds shortly after his second birthday. A few weeks later he was diagnosed with cancer of the nasal cavity. Less than a year later, he was gone.
‘Have to move on’
Banks admits he went into a shell after Khamari’s passing, but he knew he couldn’t stay there.
“It’ll never get easy, but life is about moving on,” said Banks, a three-time CFL all-star. “Whoever you are, you have to move on. If not, you’ll end up under the bridge, sleeping on the corner or being a bum. A lot of guys end up in those situations. They couldn’t move on in life. They let whatever tragedy take them down and they stayed there.
“I can’t allow that, because I have other kids and a wife and family. I’m the leader of the house, so if I’m pouting and not showing spirit, then they won’t.”
He said his family, which includes his wife Tartesia, sons Korey Jr., 12, and Kamden, 7, and Kennedi, who was born five months before Khamari passed away, is doing well. Korey Jr. loves sports but wants to get into the medical field when he grows up because of what happened to Khamari.
When the Lions take to the Canad Inns Stadium field on Monday, Banks, as he has for every game this season, will be wearing a T-shirt that memorializes his son beneath his jersey. He said the heartache he experienced has changed him, but in a good way.
“It makes me enjoy every moment. Like, forget about what’s happening or what happened. Think about what’s going to happen,” Banks said. “Like that 1-7 start we had, it didn’t faze me one bit, because I knew we had the team and the players. You just gotta start with one win.”
Buono can’t put his finger on it precisely, but he said, “Korey’s a little bit more focused and maybe a little less volatile than he’s been in years past.
“I don’t know if that’s maturity or the result of going through a personal tragedy like that. It can make things a little bit more simple for you and maybe make you a little more appreciative. He’s been a very, very good player for us.”
He certainly has, as Banks leads the team in sacks, forced fumbles and pass knock-downs.
“There’s nothing we can do to bring him back or rewrite the past, but you just gotta make the future better,” Banks said. “I have this gift. I gotta keep using it. I’m not going to let my gift go and feel sorry for myself. A man doesn’t do that.
“He’s gone, but never forgotten.”