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January 30, 2012
Lakewood (Wash.) offensive tackle Zach Banner had the rare experience of being a four year blue chip recruit.
Since his freshman year at Lakes High School, Banner has been a marked man by opponents, college scouts and the media.
Monday afternoon at Lakes' Performance Arts Center, Banner ended the suspense of his four-year-long recruitment by committing to USC over Washington and Oklahoma.
"I, Zach Banner, will be taking my talents to the University of Southern California," said Banner as he put on a white USC hat. "I think that USC was just a home away from home for me.
"I felt comfortable in Southern California and I felt really comfortable with the coaches."
Before his senior year of high school began, Banner had more scholarships than he could name off of the top of his head. Rivals.com first wrote about Banner in the spring of 2009. That was when USC began recruiting Banner, which led to a verbal scholarship offered a year later from the Trojans.
The son of former All-Pro NFL offensive lineman Lincoln Kennedy, Banner couldn't hide his gifts as a 6-foot-7 sophomore.
"I just received an offer from USC to play football for them. My family and I are very happy about that," said Banner in September 2010.
That was back when Pete Carroll was still the head coach at USC.
"I remember when I first started talking to USC," said Banner. "It was coach [Rocky] Seto and coach [Pete] Carroll. It was crazy to get that offer. We're talking about one of the best programs ever in college football."
But then came an unexpected transition between coaching staffs. Pete Carroll was on his way to Seattle to coach for the hometown Seahawks, while Lane Kiffin was headed to Los Angeles to become the new head coach at USC.
With Kiffin came a new recruiting staff. Replacing Seto on the recruiting trail was Joe Barry, and long time NFL assistant with little experience recruiting.
It didn't matter. By last summer, Banner was already signing the new coaching staff's praises.
"Joe Barry ... this dude," laughed Banner last July. "Joe Barry lives with me. I mean that as a metaphor, but this guy e-mails all of the time, calls me when he can and it's not just Coach Barry. When I get there, it's going to be about Coach James Cregg. He's on top of me too.
"Coach Barry, Coach Cregg, Coach [Ed Orgeron] ... all of the coaches on staff recruit well. I like it because they all take the time to get to know you. They don't BS you. They give it to you straight and talk about working your way into a starting role."
After being recruited for four years by some of the top college football programs nationally, Banner has been made plenty of promises and guarantees. Amazingly, the attention has not changed him as a person.
"He is a great, great person," said Lakes High School Head Coach Dave Miller. "At lunch, Zach will eat with the special education kids. He doesn't do it because he feels a responsibility to do it. He does it because he loves people."
Banner has remained incredibly gracious and patient throughout the recruiting process - two traits harder and harder to find in recruits of his stature. But his fun loving nature only goes so far.
On the field, Banner is extremely competitive. At the U.S. Army All-America Bowl practices in San Antonio (Texas) earlier this month, Banner was even vocal about the West squad's break out of he huddle.
"Hold up man," Banner's voice boomed across the practice field. "That's not a [expletive] break. Lets go. Do it right."
On more than one occasion, Banner dressed down his teammates and pushed the intensity in which the team practiced with.
"He is a leader," said Miller. "He has always been a leader. He will lead by example, but he is also a kid that wants to engage people. That just comes naturally to him.
"He is such an imposing figure with his size, but at the same time, he's a very likable young man. Everybody likes Zach and Zach like everybody. We saw that here and you'll see that in college.
"In all my years coaching, I've never see a young man handle this process with more class than Zach."
USCFootball.com will bring you more on Zach Banner's commitment throughout the day, including video interviews from his announcement.
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