Lakes High graduate Zach Banner will be remembered as different things to different people.
Some will recall the 6-foot-9, 330-pound offensive tackle and basketball center as a standout athlete.
Many will see the confident, gregarious Banner as a larger-than-life personality.
For others, Banner’s mantra of “Family Over Everything” will forever occupy a place in their souls.
But if it were up to Banner, here’s how he wants to be remembered:
“I want to be the change,” he said.
Banner, The News Tribune’s 2012 High School Senior Male Athlete of the Year, says he has only begun to leave his impression on the South Sound.
“I want to be able to earn the right to say ‘Zach cares,’ ” he said.
Banner has always given back to his community. Over the past few years he has volunteered for Tacoma’s East Side Harper’s Angels – he grew up playing baseball, basketball and football in the youth sports association – and the Lakewood Lumberjacks. He mentored eighth-grade students at three middle schools. He helped put on free youth sports camps.
Banner’s dedication to service has been nationally recognized. In February, he was flown to Los Angeles as a finalist for the Watkins Award, which honors the country’s top African-American male high school scholar athletes.
A month ago, Banner’s eyes were opened to the difference one person can make in a community. NBA player Jamal Crawford invited Banner to play at his charity basketball event, “Rip the Cut,” in Seattle. Over the course of a few weeks, the two struck up a friendship that left Banner in awe of Crawford.
“Jamal is different. I’ve known him a month or two and I can already say he is my idol,” Banner said. “If there’s a local guy I want to be like, it’s Jamal Crawford.”
Crawford, a 13-year NBA pro and 1998 graduate of Rainier Beach High, formed the Jamal Crawford Foundation and has been generous with his time and wealth to Seattle-area youth.
Crawford gave Rainier Beach $100,000 to refurbish its gymnasium in 2005, and last fall the City of Renton was the beneficiary of a $50,000 donation, which it used to renovate Liberty Park. Crawford’s foundation also funds a variety of charities that provide inner-city youth with experiences that will make them well-rounded adults.
Banner thinks Crawford can be a role model for everyone, particularly professional athletes.
“Jamal wasn’t the first person to make it big out of Rainier Beach,” Banner said. “He was the first who contributed.”
Banner said he’s frustrated by the number of professional athletes who fail to return to Pierce County to give back to the community they grew up in.
“You come back home and see a lot of NFL players charging $600 for camps in places like Bremerton or Lacey or Bellevue because those kids can pay for it,” Banner said.
“Six-hundred dollars, that’s a lot of families’ paychecks. That’s not going to be me. I’m not going to charge.”
Banner knows a professional football career is far from a guarantee. But no matter how his playing career at the University of Southern California turns out, Banner will keep his roots in Pierce County. He scoffs at those who say he turned his back on his community by choosing to play football at USC over the University of Washington.
“I’m not from L.A. I wanted to change myself,” Banner said. “I’m a local star and a national name. I want to be a local legend and a national star.”
When Banner returns, possibly after a lucrative NFL career, his mission is clear.
“I will be the first from Tacoma to change it,” he said. “I want to be the change.”
THE NEWS TRIBUNE’S 2011-12 SENIOR MALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
SCHOOL / ATHLETE
Auburn / Tilden Sansom
Auburn Mountainview / Shaddye Melu
Auburn Riverside / Korey Krotzer
Beamer / Willie Roach
Bellarmine Prep / Michael Rector
Bethel / Joel Ragazzo
Bonney Lake / Andrew Cunningham
Capital / Alec Temple
Cascade Christian / Jake Archer
Central Kitsap / Kyle Lanoue
Centralia / Dayna Squib
Charles Wright / Daniel Hahm
Clover Park / Cornelius Nelson
Curtis / Kayden Del Toro
Decatur / Michael Klayvuhn Drew Thompson
Eatonville / Erik Swartout
Emerald Ridge / Kriss Durr
Enumclaw / Tyler Salsbury
Federal Way / Jordan Pulu
Fife / Bryce Miller
Foss / Andrew Hahn
Franklin Pierce / Alex Afuvai
Gig Harbor / Korey Durkee
Graham-Kapowsin / Grant Steen
Jefferson / K.W. Williams
Kent-Meridian / Josh Smith
Kentlake / Austin Pernell
Kentridge / Kaid Tipton Reggie Collins
Kentwood / Danny Lunder
Lakes / Zach Banner
Life Christian / Jordan King Dylan Huber
Lincoln / Emmanuel Thompkins
Mount Rainier / Malik Rodgers
Mount Rainier Lutheran / David Greenwood
Mount Tahoma / Jon Devine
North Thurston / Ben Broeker
Northwest Christian / Lucas Graham
Olympia / Dominick Francks
Orting / Drew Templeman
Peninsula / Curtis King
Puyallup / Matt Becker
River Ridge / Howie Harper
Rogers / Derrick Jones
Seattle Christian / Shawn Abe
Shelton / Robert Endicott
South Kitsap / Dominic Boddie
Spanaway Lake / David Fletcher
Stadium / Tyler Stumph
Steilacoom / Jake Esseln
Sumner / Tyler Salisbury
Tacoma Baptist / Walker Williams
Tahoma / Aaron Davis
Timberline / Rashon Smith
Tumwater / Riley Prentice
Vashon / Jesse Hazzard
W.F. West / Mitch Gueller
Washington / Jacob Tuivaiave
White River / Marcus Dickson
Wilson / Chase Schell
Yelm / James Bradley
*Athletes are nominated by schools or selected by The News Tribune