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Harlan on recruiting: East Allegheny TE Banks sets commitment date

Chris Harlan
| Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, 6:45 p.m.
East Allegheny's TJ Banks
East Allegheny's TJ Banks
East Allegheny's TJ Banks catches a touchdown pass during the Alle-Kiski Football Challenge at Kiski Area High School on Thursday, July 28, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
East Allegheny's TJ Banks catches a touchdown pass during the Alle-Kiski Football Challenge at Kiski Area High School on Thursday, July 28, 2016.

East Allegheny senior TJ Banks decided this week to pick a Wednesday in mid-October as his commitment date, the day he'll announce which Division I football offer he'll accept.

Why choose Oct. 18?

It's his birthday, and his sister would be home from college across the state.

"She wanted to come home the day of my commitment," he said. "If I commit in mid-September and my birthday is the 18th (of October), she said didn't want to make two trips. I said all right."

That says as much about Banks as any video.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end/defensive end isn't planning a made-for-TV press conference or a sideline spectacle. And his coach, Dom Pecora, joked that there won't be any last-minute shopping spree for hats.

The four-star recruit isn't much for self-promotion.

"You've never in your life seen a kid in this day and age of recruiting less interested in the process," Pecora said. "He hates it. … I even asked him: 'TJ, when you sign, do you want us to do something at the high school?' He said no, and looked at me like I was crazy."

Still, his coach delivers his best sales pitch to recruiters.

"I keep telling everybody, for so many reasons, I think he's the best, highest-ceiling kid you're going to recruit," said Pecora, describing the 16-year-old Duquesne native as a thoughtful leader "who just shuts up and works."

Few in Western Pennsylvania are rated higher than Banks. Rivals ranks him third among all WPIAL seniors, with only Pine-Richland quarterback Phil Jurkovec (Notre Dame commit) and Aliquippa safety Kwantel Raines (uncommitted) ahead of him.

There are campuses Banks "definitely" wants to visit: West Virginia, Temple, Florida International and Central Florida, with Maryland also on his short list. He likes the idea of joining a second-tier program that's on the rise.

"I want to help build a program as a star player in that program," said Banks, who totaled 17 scholarship offers, including Big Ten schools Purdue and Illinois. He earned one from Pitt last September, but the Panthers already met their tight end limit, he said.

Banks caught two touchdowns Friday and was disruptive on defense, but that wasn't what caused little buzz on social media. Instead, the image from Friday's 28-26 loss to Jeannette was video of a failed two-point pass to Banks with 37 seconds left. He'd just caught a touchdown, but the two-point pass was thrown too low and Jeannette's Robert Kennedy knocked it away.

"Social media is a funny place," Pecora said. "He catches two fades, goes up and makes people look silly. And then I see one that gets batted down and, oh my God, they tweeted it all over the internet."

It's a disservice to Banks' ability if that's the only time someone sees him in action, Pecora said.

"The best player on the field was him by leaps and bounds," Pecora said. "It kind of stinks because that's the highlight for knuckleheads who don't understand football."

Banks didn't wage a Twitter war. Instead, he posted his complete game video with a message that read: Let the film tell the whole story since no one else will.

"He's just not into (social media)," Pecora said, "and that's why I love him even more."

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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