COVINGTON — Kevin Banks has some huge shoes to fill as he replaces Larry Campbell as head coach for Lincoln County.
“I can’t fill his shoes, you can’t replace a legend,” Banks said. “All I can do is keep things about the same but change a few things and work hard. Hopefully good things will happen.”
Banks, a 1985 Newton graduate, was a member of the Red Devils coaching staff for the past 19 years after starting his coaching career at Georgia Military College.
“Georgia Military hadn’t been to the playoffs in about 25 years. We went that first year, the next year we went to the playoffs again but we got beat in the first round,” Banks said. “At the end of the next year is when coach Campbell gave me a call and asked me if I wanted to come to Lincolnton.”
After leaving Newton, Banks went to South Carolina State on a football scholarship. He left after two years when the coach was fired and finished his playing career at Fort Valley State. He continued working on his masters at Troy State before taking a math teaching position at Georgia Military where he coached and worked on a leadership degree from Cambridge College.
Campbell is the winningest coach in the state finishing with a record of 477-85-3. Over his 42-year span at Lincoln County, Campbell had 11 state championships with seven seasons without a loss. He also led the Red Devils to postseason play every year since 1974.
Over that time Banks learned that hard work pays off plus more importantly to hire good coaches and let them coach.
While the new coach does not plan on changing a lot from what Campbell did, he is going to make a few changes making this his program and not a continuation of the Campbell era.
“We’re going to run the football. The last four or five years we were a spread team but we’re going to get back to running the football,” he said. “We’re going to play great defense and be solid on special teams.
“The main thing is that we’re going to run the football. If you can’t stop people from running the football you’re going to get beat. That philosophy comes from being a defensive coach.”
Banks’ defensive philosophy started while at Newton where he played linebacker and set up at defensive end from time to time.
“He was a good player for us. He was very coachable, very intelligent and a hard worker. He was very bright and quick to pick up instructions. I think he was a good choice to succeed Larry Campbell,” Dan Spier, Newton head coach from 1979-1984, said.
While Banks learned a lot from Campbell, he is also taking a little bit from Spier.
“Coach Spier believed in academics,” Banks said. “He was a hardworking guy that believed if you couldn’t do your work at school you couldn’t play football. He was an academic man and that’s probably the best thing I learned from him.”
Even though Banks stayed in Lincolnton for a long time, he had considered leaving including returning to back to Newton County. The last time he considered coming home was in 2009 with the departure of Nick Collins.
“I was going to apply for the job then but for some reason I didn’t do it, I don’t know why. But yes, I always wanted to come back to Covington,” he said. “I just wish my dad, Cleo Banks Sr., could’ve been here to see it.”