FIND A WAY: Jeffrie Banks
Jeffrie Banks batted .435 and hit two home runs last year. He also started at fullback and nose guard on a 15-0 State Championship team and he did it all, and so much more, with only one arm.
By Greg Shepard
Published: Summer 1999
Coach Jeffery Bonner from Southern Choctaw High School in Silas, Alabama wrote me at BFS. The following are parts of this letter: “For the past five years I have been reading the BFS Journal and the wonderful stories from all across the world. Here is a true story about another unique athlete from our small school.
“Jeffrie Banks has always been a gifted athlete in both football and baseball but at the age of 14 he cut off his left arm just below the elbow at his dad's sawmill. Coach Shepard, it didn't stop him. In baseball, as a junior, Jeffrie batted .435 and hit two home runs. Last football season he started at fullback and nose guard on our 15-0 Alabama 2A state football championship team.
“His attitude, work ethic and dedication demonstrate the BFS principles. He has shown the internal fortitude to never say ‘why me?’ Would you please consider publishing his story in your next BFS Magazine? I truly believe others would benefit from his story. By the way, did I mention Jeffrie Benches 250, Squats 440 and Power Cleans 245.”
We were all overwhelmed at BFS. Last month I flew into Mobile and drove 80 miles north to meet this outstanding young man.
Jeffrie's dad, Wayne Banks, had just left home to rest from his sawmill. “Less than 30 minutes later,” said Mr. Banks, “Jeffrie caught his arm in an 1,800 RPM saw.” The 7-man work crew brought Jeffrie and the remains of the severed arm to his father.
“I almost fainted when I saw my son,” remembered Mr. Banks. Jeffrie was just going into the 8th grade and was only 14 years old. He was cutting out a notch in a piece of wood to make a pallet.”
“I had a loose glove and was reaching for a piece of wood,” said Jeffrie half smiling. “I just took off running. I guess I was in shock. The workmen caught me and put me in the car.”
Jeffrie got out of the car by himself and walked up to his dad. His sister and mother drove him twenty miles to the hospital. Jeffrie walked into the Emergency Room. “I really didn't feel any pain,” said Jeffrie, “but didn't start crying until I thought about no more football. The doctor said I wouldn't be able to play sports again.” Jeffrie spent one week in the hospital.
Jeffrie didn't go through therapy. “I felt I didn't need it. I figured I could do my own therapy.” Three weeks after the accident, Jeffrie went to the football field for Pee Wee football.
Jeffrie somberly said, “I thought maybe I could just kick. The coach thought the same. One game I asked if I could carry the ball and play defense. I gave a couple of licks and took a couple. Everyone saw I was still the same person. I was just so happy I could go out and play with the rest of the athletes. All of my classmates have always been helpful.”
Mr. Banks remembered, “We had decided not to let Jeffrie play because of what the doctor said. Jeffrie pleaded to us. We feared at first he might lose something else. Jeffrie had such a strong desire, we gave in and let him play. Jeffrie proved us all wrong.
“We are so proud of our son. My wife at first was very very sad and emotional. Jeffrie told us that he'd be alright and not to worry. He was more concerned about us than his arm.
“My son does not want to hear the word handicapped. He doesn't feel that he is.”
Head football coach, Larry Boykin, remembered, “It was 3rd and 9 in our state championship game. We only had a narrow 3-0 lead late in the 2nd quarter. We ran a play action pass. Jeffrie had said that he was wide open and they weren't respecting him. He caught a 17-yard pass to set up a touchdown that put us up 10-0 at the half. Jeffrie also caught a crucial pass in the semi-final game. In his junior year just in one game, he had 174 yards rushing on 9 carries for two touchdowns.
“Jeffrie was our ball boy as a kid. He's been around football a long time but I was hoping Jeffrie wouldn't play as a 9th grader. I thought he might get hurt or demoralized but he ended up as a starter on the varsity team. I've seen one-arm guys play defense but never a running back. But I found it didn't make any difference. No one took it easy on Jeffrie and he didn't take it easy on anyone.”
Baseball presented it’s own unique set of challenges. Jeffrie said, “I went to my doctor in Mobile and told him I was having trouble playing baseball. He went through some magazines and found a contraption with an “O” ring. We attached it to the bat. Some modifications were made throughout the season; and years.” Jeffrie became a starter on the baseball team. His dad preferred baseball because of the lack of contact.
Last year he batted .435 and hit two homeruns. Early in the season this year, Jeffrie was batting .370 with 13 runs scored and 12 RBI’s. Clay Tew, head baseball coach at Southern Choctaw, got emotional. “Jeffrie started every game at left field all four years. I thought there was no way humanly possible. We are so blessed just to be around Jeffrie because of what he has done and how he has accepted it. No one has ever touched my life like Jeffrie.”
Coach Boykin added another thought, “Another kid in our school broke his neck while another lost an eye. They used Jeffrie as a role model. They both worked extra hard and both returned to sports.
“Jeffrie has inspired even community members with disabilities. And as far as our State Championship team? - we've had better talent but not another team with so much determination and dedication.”
Jeffrie is also a good student. He is always in school, always on time to class and with his assignments and tries to turn in quality work for his assignments. He places a premium on his total educational experience. Jeffrie plans on going to college with or without sports. “You just have to have an education,” he explained.
Jeffrie believes he has to workout like everyone else. Just being around his teammates was all Jeffrie needed. “I worked on my legs at first. When I tried to Bench it hurt but eventually my arm toughened up and now the hook I use doesn't bother me at all. As far as the Power Clean, I just had to figure out a way."
Drugs, alcohol and tobacco have never been a part of Jeffrie's life. “No one has ever asked me to take drugs,” said Jeffrie thankfully. “So I've never touched them. I don't chew and I have never tried a cigarette.
“I wouldn't care to get drunk. The punishment and embarrassment would be to severe. I've never had one bottle of beer,” he continued looking me straight in the eye. “You can have fun without drinking.”
Coach Jeffrie Bonner, Choctaw's strength coach and assistant football coach said, “The kids here spend a lot of their spare time training with weights. They don't have time to do negative things.”
Jeffrie gave these final comments on his success, “Never give up and keep your faith in God. Keep close to your family and people who truly care for you.”
At the assembly where I spoke to honor Jeffrie, I couldn't help but give Jeffrie a hug and whispered, “On a scale of one to ten Jeffrie, you're an eleven.” I know each coach and athlete who reads this will feel the same. Jeffrie's example will help many to play their song in a better way.