Condolences and tributes are pouring in from across the football world after Don Banks, a longtime NFL columnist and former Patriots writer, passed away at the age of 56 early Sunday morning in Canton, Ohio
Banks was hired last month by the Las Vegas Review-Journal to cover the NFL and was in Canton to cover the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. According to the Review-Journal, he was found unresponsive in his hotel room Sunday morning and pronounced dead. His wife, Alyssa, told the paper that Banks died in his sleep.
“He was supposed to arrive home in Boston on Sunday morning,” she said. “He went very peacefully.”
Banks had spent roughly three decades covering the NFL. After 10 years covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings for local papers, he was hired by Sports Illustrated in 2000 to be an NFL columnist; for more than a decade, he wrote a popular “Snap Judgments” column rounding up the important news and results of each Sunday’s games. After getting laid off by SI in 2016, Banks began writing his columns for NFL.com and Patriots.com, the team’s in-house website. In 2017, he also began contributing to The Athletic Boston, where he covered the Patriots through last season’s Super Bowl run.
During a press conference Monday morning, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called the news “shocking.”
“I’ve had an opportunity to work with [Banks] many, many times,” Belichick said. “Very professional, very passionate. I just had a lot of respect for the way he did his job. … We’ll miss him.”
Belichick wasn’t the only one. The Patriots organization, among other NFL teams, tweeted that they were “shocked and saddened” by the loss. Friends and former colleagues throughout NFL media remembered Banks as a kind, caring, and talented worker. Several fellow NFL reporters shared stories and examples of Banks reaching out to help them get started in the competitive industry.
“If there’s a way to describe Banks, it’s this: He was the voice of reason, both in his job and beyond it,” SI writer Jenny Vrentas wrote in a column Monday full of remembrances from other colleagues at the magazine — from the time Banks got Super Bowl tickets for a young Buccaneers fan at the magazine in 2003 to the way he handled himself after getting laid off.
“It’s only a job,” Banks said, according to Vrentas. “Not who you are.”
Absolutely crushing news. Don was the best. Horribly sad. https://t.co/RLquVAXnOy
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 4, 2019
I am crushed by this. Don was such a genuine, sincere person. I was lucky to work with him, but also just to know him. He deserved many more years with his family and in this new job he was over the moon excited about https://t.co/YE9drMFhCO
— Sean Leahy (@leahysean) August 4, 2019
2 stories I know Don Banks was especially excited about last year at The Athletic. We’ll miss you, Don
1 How Foxboro becomes home for Patriots players https://t.co/16tEcV9YR0
2 Would NFL have stayed in Boston without Kraft? https://t.co/6YPxcG8tCi
— Sean Leahy (@leahysean) August 5, 2019
Forget good guy; Don was one of the best guys. So friendly, so kind, so genuinely interested in people, so completely generous – w/ his time and knowledge – and so damn tremendous at the art of writing. This is heartbreaking. ? https://t.co/rMzUUxT18Y
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 5, 2019
Heartbroken for Don’s wife, Alissa, and two sons. Covered the Bucs with Don for six years. Not sure I’ve had more laughs in the press box or on the road with anyone. His friendships were deep and unqualified. He was a great reporter and a decent man who made time for everyone. https://t.co/krjfTajkxm
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) August 5, 2019
Just saw Don Banks on Friday night in Canton. He was so excited to start his new job as the lead NFL writer in Vegas. His first story for the paper ran today, and was a total home run about the lessons the Browns learned from Hard Knocks. This is so sad https://t.co/uYsTUNnDia
— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) August 4, 2019
Peter King, another former SI colleague, wrote Monday in his column for NBC Sports that, in a business where friends are “fleeting,” Banks was the “only one who always would tell me the truth about myself.” The Florida native was thrilled to start his new job for the Review-Journal, after spending the last few seasons working for several outlets, King said.
“I’m back, baby” Banks reportedly told him in a phone call Saturday, excitedly talking about his debut story: a look at the Cleveland Browns’ experience on the HBO/NFL Films show “Hard Knocks.”
“Words can’t express the depth of sadness the Review-Journal staff feels for Don’s family and friends,” Glenn Cook, the executive editor of the Review-Journal, said Sunday. “Beyond a sportswriting institution, Don was a dedicated husband and father and a class act. No NFL journalist commanded more respect. The sport has lost one of its finest storytellers.”
Banks is survived by his wife and two adult children, Matt and Micah, the latter of whom expressed gratitude for the outpouring of support from the sports world Sunday.