Tony DeMeo

The Trailblazers by Oree Banks

The Trailblazers
By: Oree Banks
Oree Banks & I have been friends for over 30 years and over that period of time I have found him to be a source of valuable coaching advice. Coach Banks has a wealth of experience at every level of coaching. But in addition to his expertise in football; he also has a PHD in life.

Banks played his college football at Kansas State University and after graduating he pursued a coaching career. He had many stops along the way. He had a successful stint as the Head Coach at South Carolina St. University posting a 44-27-2 record. But his experiences as an assistant coach under coaching legends Eddie Robinson at Grambling and Paul Dietzel at the University of South Carolina where he was the first full time black assistant football coach make him truly unique. Banks was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1995. So who better to write a book about historic black football coaches?

I grew up a fan of Jake Gaither the legendary coach of Florida A & M because I had a friend who played for him in the 60’s. The Rattlers were explosive & their offensive was light years ahead its time. When I became a coach one of the first football books I purchased was The Split Line T Offense by Jake Gaither. I learned the value of line splits which I used to help develop my philosophy of “smart splits”. So I was totally engrossed with The Trailblazers by Oree Banks.

Oree does a great job going into the history of some of the greatest football coaches never known. Eddie Robinson of Grambling heads the list. Of course Robinson eventually received his due after his record setting tenure at Grambling. Robinson was the first Black coach to become President of the AFCA. The thing I’ll never forget about Coach Robinson is that even after he had won over 300 games he attended lectures and sat in the front row taking notes. Coach Robinson won over 400 games and was a larger than life figure in college football.

Jake Gaither is also well covered by Banks. Coach Gaither is not as well known as Eddie Robinson but was no slouch as a head football coach. Coach Gaither’s record was an astonishing 204-36-4! WOW!

Banks also discusses some of the black players who pioneered the integration of Pro Football. Tank Younger was the NFL’s Jackie Robinson. He dominated Pro Football. He also talks about Willie Davis, Harry Carson and many others. These are players from Historically Black Universities that made it in the NFL.

The Trailblazers is a must read for anyone interested in the history of college football. There have been many innovations in football that have had their roots in Historically Black Universities. I personally benefited in the development of my own offensive philosophy from Jake Gaithers. Eddie Robinson was an inspiration to many. And guys like Harry Jefferson and Oree Banks helped pave the way for guys like Tony Dungy. The history of college football is incomplete without including The Trailblazers and Oree Banks does a wonderful job presenting their story.