T-N-T reunited: Ex-Hawkeyes Tavian Banks, Tim Dwight visit memory lane
Twenty years after they racked up video-game statistics starring for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Tavian Banks and Tim Dwight on Friday were, at long last, together again on a football field.
The former Eastern Iowa high school rivals and eventual Hawkeye teammates were at Waukee Middle School to headline a first-year, free football camp aimed at building character, teamwork and on-field skills.
“Me and Tim always wanted to do a camp together,” said Banks, a Bettendorf alum who recently moved to West Des Moines after 10 years in the Chicago area. “We just haven’t had the time in the past.”
Tim and Tavian.
Seasoned Hawkeye fans recall the explosive combination in 1997, in which both became Heisman Trophy candidates.
“It’s been 20 days, what are you talking about?” Dwight joked. “Twenty years. Crazy.”
Banks was the star Hawkeye running back, racking up 204 rushing yards in the opener against Northern Iowa. He followed with 314 (still a school record) the next Saturday against Tulsa.
Dwight was the do-everything wideout who still ranks No. 3 all-time in career receiving yards at Iowa despite spending his first season as a running back. He led the team in receiving in 1997 and was an electric specialist, averaging an incredible 19.3 yards per punt return (when teams dared to kick to him) with three touchdowns.
Dwight even passed for 86 yards and a touchdown. The Iowa City High product was a consensus first-team all-American and finished seventh in Heisman Trophy voting.
He might’ve finished higher, but Banks was deserving of attention, too. Banks piled up 1,691 rushing yards that year, a school mark until Shonn Greene broke it with 1,850 yards in 2008.
“But he had one more game than I did,” Banks joked Friday.
Given Iowa’s struggles last fall in the passing game, it’s easy to forget how dynamic that 1997 Hawkeye offense was.
No. 1 in the country at one point, with speed everywhere and Matt Sherman at quarterback.
That’s what Banks remembers most — that, and the gut-wrenching, 28-24 loss at Michigan after Iowa led by two touchdowns on Dwight’s stunning punt-return TD as time expired in the first half.
“When we lost to Michigan, gosh, it kind of went downhill from there a little bit. That kind of broke us,” Banks said of a 4-0 start that became a 7-5 finish. “And then Michigan goes on to win the national championship that year. That’s the type of season we should have had at Iowa. We had that type of team.”
A major knee injury derailed Banks’ NFL career, but Dwight flourished for many years as a receiver and return man (he had 210 kickoff-return yards with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII) until retiring at age 33.
Now, they’re on different post-NFL paths.
Banks, 43, is married with five children, and now works as an athletic trainer at Ignit Sports & Fitness in Grimes.
Dwight, 42, is unmarried and splits time between San Diego and Iowa City, with his professional passion in the solar-energy industry. He’s an advocate for solar power, working with legislatures and citizens to bring more clean energy to the state.
“You don’t mess around with tax credits," Dwight said. "You kind of have to know what you’re talking about.”
Dwight follows the current Hawkeyes more than Banks does; he attended almost every home game in 2015 and likes the upcoming backfield combination of Akrum Wadley and James Butler.
“I tell you what, Wadley, he’s something,” Dwight said. “He’s shifty.”
Another explosive combo in the making?
There’s only been one of those in Hawkeye history, and T-N-T would be tough to top.
Banks and Dwight hope to continue their joint camp in future years at various locations around the state. About 350 kids, ages 7 to 13, poured into Waukee for this year’s inaugural event.
“Football’s a great game to teach kids how to work hard, work together and have confidence in themselves,” Dwight said. “It’s a tough game, too, because you get knocked down. You have to get back up. It’s just like life.”