HAMILTON — Saying he "will always bleed black and gold," star receiver Brandon Banks is leaving the Hamilton Tiger-Cats after eight seasons with the CFL club.
Banks set several special-teams franchise records and racked up accolades over his time with the Ticats.
He was named the CFL's outstanding player in 2019 and its top special-teams player in 2015. He was a league all-star four times (2014, '15, '18, '19), a divisional all-star six times and was part of four Grey Cup finalists.
Neither Banks nor the Ticats gave a reason for the two sides parting ways. Banks was scheduled to become a free agent next month.
"I don’t even know where to start. In 2013 I was driving to a new country, to a new city called Hamilton and couldn’t help but ask myself ‘why'? Eight years later, I know why," Banks said in a farewell letter released by the Ticats.
"Thank you to one of the best organizations I’ve been a part of for making me into the man I am today. Thank you for the opportunities, thank you for believing in me and thank you for fighting for me, even when I was wrong."
Banks played 111 regular-season games with the Ticats, setting franchise records in kickoff (3,773), punt (3,049) and missed field goal (779) return yards.
He is also the team leader in missed field goal return touchdowns (five); second in touchdowns (62), combined yards (13,686) and punt return touchdowns (seven); fourth in receiving touchdowns (44); fifth in receptions (422); and eighth in receiving yards (5,678).
“It has been extremely difficult to write this. I’ve been a part of the CFL for over 20 years, and when I think of dynamic and impactful players, Brandon Banks is at the top of the list," Orlondo Steinauer, Ticats president of football operations and head coach, said in a release.
"Brandon has been both a Ticats fan favourite and a CFL fan favourite, who constantly leaves you in disbelief of what he is able to do on a football field."
A special-teams dynamo early in his career, Banks transitioned into a wideout threat. He had his first 1,000-yard receiving season in 2017 with 1,011 yards, adding a then-career-high eight touchdowns through the air.
He followed that up with 1,423 receiving yards and 11 TDs in 2018 and 1,550 yards and 13 TDs in his MOP 2019 season.
"I have so much respect for Brandon as a person and have admired his competitive nature and his desire to win since my days as the defensive co-ordinator in Hamilton," Steinauer said. "Brandon, you are a future Hall of Famer who has been an invaluable member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats organization."
A rib injury limited Banks to 10 games in the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, which saw his offensive output drop to 474 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
He scored a touchdown in his final game with the Ticats, a heartbreaking 33-25 loss at home to Winnipeg in the 108th Grey Cup.
While Banks will not be returning to Tim Hortons Field as a member of the Tiger-Cats, he had fond words for Hamilton's football fans in his statement.
"Tiger-Town … Wow, thank you so much for welcoming me and my family to your city and for allowing me to make Hamilton a second home," he said.
"Thank you for the great times in the community and for always making game day so special for me and my family. I always played my hardest for you, trying to bring home that Grey Cup you all deserve."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2022.
The Canadian Press