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October 28, 2011
Zach Banner has been working exceptionally hard for years to be in this position. He is widely considered to be one of the best offensive tackles in the country and on Friday he was presented with his U.S. Army All-American Bowl jersey.
All the hard work is paying off and the Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes four-star prospect cannot be more excited for himself and teammate Cedric Dozier, a four-star athlete who also was given his Army game jersey during a ceremony at their high school.
"This just shows how hard me and Ced have worked with the team," Banner said. "Since Day 1 we've been working out together and we've been best friends since then. I'm proud of him. As much as people talk about me, honestly, he works just as hard. I'm tearing up talking about him.
"At the Army game, it's our last week to show out before we go to college. Basically, he and I feel like we get to rep our school when we go down there. It's on national TV and we're definitely going to get on them in the West."
Banner, a 6-foot-9, 310-pound prospect who plans to play football and basketball in college, recently narrowed his college list to Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, USC and Washington. He has taken official visits to the first three programs and will most likely wait until after his senior season to visit with the two Pac-12 schools.
The four-star visited Notre Dame last weekend for its night game against USC and he was at Michigan in early September when the Wolverines hosted the Irish. Both trips definitely left an impression with Banner, rated as the seventh-best offensive tackle and No. 38 prospect in the 2012 class by Rivals.com.
"It was good at Notre Dame," Banner said. "I definitely feel like I have a lot to compare to. I basically have two more visits to USC and UW. I don't know the set dates on those. I think they'll probably be after the season. This is just a hell of an experience.
"How about the 114,000 fans that were there (at Michigan)? That was probably the best part. Coach (Brady) Hoke and his staff are all great coaches and I got to meet coach (John) Beilein so the whole football and basketball program are really good."
Oklahoma has emerged as a favorite - and Banner said in recent days that if he was a betting man that the Sooners would have a good chance - especially after his visit to Norman earlier this fall. His interactions with coach Bob Stoops has been a big factor in Banner's considerations.
"Coach Stoops definitely impressed me," Banner said. "I don't know about the whole leader of the whole thing, I heard that's the rumor going around, but I had a really good time. I got to meet the whole team, I got to chill with all the players and basically the visit went awesome.
"We're really committed to playoffs at our school so I don't want that to get in the way but if there is a Saturday that's coming up where I'm free I might take my visit to USC and then UW will probably be my last visit because it's so close and convenient."
Banner plans to wait until Jan. 14 to make his decision which means he has lots of time to take his final two visits before reviewing all his options. What will also play a major factor during his decision-making process is that Banner intends to play both sports in college and that will be crucial as he picks the right place for him.
"I'm definitely doing both sports," Banner said. "All 54 schools that ended up offering me said I could do both. I narrowed it down to the list of five not only based off the football team but based off both sports. I'm definitely playing both sports in college.
"Not many people do it and for sure not too many offensive linemen did it. I'm really focused on it and that's what has gotten me through. Being one of the best basketball players in the country and being the best in football, it hit me hard, I can't let go of basketball so I'm going to play it in college."