Paul M. Banks a.k.a. The Sports Bank “Juice” is a slang term meaning power, connections, respect and prestige. If you’re on a Big Ten campus, look at the starting quarterback on the football team. Juice (no one ever calls him Isaiah) Williams is the starting quarterback for the #20 ranked Illinois Fighting Illini. The native Chicagoan was a top 100 Rivals recruit while playing his prep ball at Chicago Vocational, the same school where Illini/Bears legend Dick Butkus played. Last year Juice guided the Illini to a BCS bid in the Rose Bowl and Illinois’s first road win over a #1 ranked team ever. Last season, I spoke with Williams on the eve of the school’s first national ranking in 6 years. “I would have something to tell my grandkids about – that I was part of a ranked team,” Williams said about his burgeoning ‘juice.’
If there’s one team people talk to me about more than any other, it’s probably Illini football. This makes sense given how I was the football beat reporter for the student daily in college and that I watch every single Illinois game. Unfortunately, the last two years I’ve heard numerous Illini fans make racist remarks about Juice when his play struggled. Apparently, some backwards people out there still think an African-American shouldn’t play quarterback. I hope I don’t hear any more from those people with Jim Crow era views on race. Idiots like these only reinforce the negative reputation my alma mater had from the Chief Illiniwek issue. Criticizing Williams for problems running the offense is one thing. Those degrading him for the color of his skin have lost their right to discuss Illini football (or anything else for that matter) with me.
This season, Juice and the Illini will have to compensate for the loss of star running back Rashard Mendenhall. Last year’s starting tailback left a year early after setting a school record for season rushing yards. However, he has a ton of returning talent blocking for him up front and reinforcements at wide receiver to complement big-time playmaker Arrelious Benn. Juice himself is an All-America candidate on the Davey O’Brien Award (top collegiate quarterback) watch list. For these reasons, his number #7 replica Illinois jersey is extremely popular…giving him even more ‘juice!’
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