When Leeds football coach Jerry Hood came to town, he knew that one of the most important phone calls he’d need to make was to Toby Banks. This summer, the two met, and Banks offered his vote of approval.
“Coach Hood is a nice guy,” Banks said. “I’ve met him. He brings a lot of success. He’s so nice.”
Banks, 52, has cerebral palsy. For more than 30 years, he has been the biggest supporter of Leeds athletics. He and his family created a foundation and hosted a golf tournament for over a decade that raised funds for others that faced the disease. Through their work, they were able to donate to area families 13 SpeechEasy devices that make communication easier for people with speech difficulties.
Banks moved to Leeds High School when he was a freshman. Joe Campbell was the head coach of the Greenwave then, and Banks quickly found a way to support the team. Since 1992, Toby’s dad has driven the bus for the team.
“Every year, Charles says he’s going to retire,” Toby’s mom, Earline, joked of her husband.
But that’s how Toby keeps up with the team on the road. Toby doesn’t get to the road games as much these days, but his father keeps him updated on his favorite team with calls and texts.
Banks has championship rings commemorating a lot of things, but he frequently wears his Leeds state championship rings from 2014 and 2015. He says that the 2015 team was his favorite. He was a big fan of T.D. Marshall, now a redshirt junior quarterback at UAB.
Toby spent years attending practices at The University of Alabama, too. He quickly developed a close relationship with Coach Gene Stallings, and he still frequently talks to Mike Dubose.
“The first time I took Toby to practice to meet Stallings, we went in his office, and it was like we were the only people there,” Earline said. “I told [Stallings] that Toby was a little disappointed that practice was closed. He got up, left and came back and he handed Toby a pass and told him that he could come to practice any time that he wanted. The pass said ‘for Toby and his mother,’ and I told him he might want to put his dad on there instead. [Stallings] said, ‘Toby, you can bring anybody you want to bring.’”
Toby hadn’t been to a practice in several years, but a few years ago then Leeds coach Lee Gibson took his team to visit the Tide’s facilities. Gibson had coached at Tuscaloosa County High, and he had a great relationship with the staff at Alabama. He invited Toby to accompany the team.
“We left the school at 12:15, and we didn’t get back until 6:30 that night,” Toby said. “I got to tour the facility. I got to see Coach [Mal] Moore’s championship ring. I got to see Mark Ingram’s Heisman Trophy. They had it all out. I loved it.”
Banks said he’s hopeful that Coach Hood can steer the Greenwave back to a state championship. As they play this season, like any, you can find him in the press box with the staff watching his favorite team.