A week from now, the Banners are throwing a lavish, VIP-only party.
It is more of a family celebration. Their youngest son, Xavier, is turning 18, so there will be birthday cake.
And, of course, their oldest son — 6-foot-8, 350-pound Zach — is eagerly expecting to hear his name called at the 2017 NFL Draft, to be held in Philadelphia.
The first round is Thursday. Unless an NFL general manager wants to pull off a stunner, former Lakes High School star Zach Banner is not expected to be among the first 32 picks in the draft.
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But in the next two rounds Friday? That is when the waiting begins.
What Banner does not want to do is interfere with his brother’s birthday bash next Saturday, even though he will be wearing a custom-tailored suit at the gathering in Puyallup.
“Let’s shoot for (being drafted) Thursday,” Banner said with a chuckle. “I will be wearing sweats or jeans.”
Banner is one of the more intriguing prospects in this NFL Draft. Not only will he become the tallest lineman drafted since Maryland’s Jared Gaither (6-9, 340) in 2007, he has enormous upside as an All-American first-team right tackle out of USC.
Rob Rang, a senior NFL Draft analyst from NFLDraftScout.com, sees Banner as a fourth-round pick, at worst.
“He is a massive, massive human being,” Rang said. “To be that big, and also that light on his feet, is rare.”
The general consensus on what keeps Banner from being projected as a higher draft pick is his fluctuating weight, which ballooned to more than 380 pounds after the Trojans’ Rose Bowl victory over Penn State in January.
Banner is well aware of this, too.
“They do not want somebody to eat themselves out of the league,” Banner said.
In order to restore some of his NFL Draft luster, Banner did a couple of key things in the past four months:
▪ Even though Banner had plenty of exposure at USC, starting 36 games, he opted to play in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in late January.
He was impressive in squaring off against some of the top pass-rushers in the country on the field, and it gave him an opportunity to meet NFL coaches face-to-face off the field.
“Built the way he is, he was going to get attention,” Rang said. “And I know the big guys sometimes have this gentle-giant thing surrounding them. But Zach, he is not only physical, but he is loud and demonstrative. People get excited about that. That drew attention his way.”
▪ Then came time to get serious about his physical makeover.
Like so many USC greats before him, Banner signed with Athletes First, a sports agency that represents NFL superstars Aaron Rodgers, Von Miller, Clay Matthews and Josh Norman.
Athletes First has a live-in training facility, called Proactive at the Marke, located in Santa Ana, California.
“It is really bourgie and very nice,” Banner said.
There, Banner is housed with fellow Athletes First signees DeShone Kizer and James Onwualu of Notre Dame, Charles Hall of Missouri and Malik Hooker, of Ohio State.
“There are 11 or 12 of us, so it kept tight,” Banner said. “It’s like a family thing.”
The players have their own personal chef — Danielle — who prepares their meals three days a week. Banner has eaten plenty of vegetables (kale, for example) and grains (quinoa).
“It is definitely not a Dick’s hamburger or an MSM (Deli) sandwich,” Banner said, “but those things are pretty good when a chef is making it for you.”
Not only does Banner strictly follow the workout program set up by Ryan Captretta, his trainer, he meets with retired 40-year NFL offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who worked with five teams, including the Seattle Seahawks.
Since the Rose Bowl, Banner has dropped 34 pounds. He leaves next week for home, weighing 349 pounds.
“It’s all been amazing,” Banner said. “I am sleeping better. I am feeling better. I am moving better.”
Dave Miller, Banner’s former coach at Lakes High School, says he has seen this same grit and determination before from his former standout.
“What I’ve always seen from Zach, when he gets challenged, he rises,” Miller said. “He always rises to the occasion when he has to prove himself.”
This offseason, Banner has honed in on another after-football career — broadcasting. He is a natural in front of the camera.
“I aspire to be the next Michael Strahan,” Banner said. “With all that being said ... I have not done crap yet (in football). I will be so grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL. If that is able to come true, I will make the most of it.”
LOCALS TO WATCH IN NFL DRAFT
With a week to go before the 2017 NFL Draft, The News Tribune talked with Rob Rang, senior NFL Draft analyst from NFLDraftScout.com, about the three local hopefuls: offensive lineman Zach Banner, quarterback Sefo Liufau and wide receiver Michael Rector.
Rang says he thinks all three are likely final-day selections — with Banner leading the way.
Here is a breakdown:
Schools: Lakes High School/USC.
Projected NFL position: Right tackle.
Biggest strength(s): Big man with underrated athleticism who can move people.
Biggest question: Can he keep his weight under control (finished season at 381 pounds)?
What Rang says: “Some speed guys (pass rushers) will give him trouble, but he is surprisingly light on his feet. He has good initial quickness for an offensive lineman.”
Projected round(s) by Rang: Fourth.
Schools: Bellarmine Prep/Stanford.
Projected NFL position: Outside receiver.
Biggest strength(s): Has straight-line burst to scare any NFL defensive back.
Biggest question: How well can he operate in smaller windows around line of scrimmage?
What Rang says: “The fact he comes from a pro-style offense and showed consistent hands with straight-on speed makes him intriguing.”
Projected round(s) by Rang: Sixth/seventh.
Schools: Bellarmine Prep/Colorado.
Projected NFL position: Quarterback.
Biggest strength(s): Prototypical size, experience and toughness.
Biggest question: Can he adjust his pace and play faster at the next level?
What Rang says: “He has the intangibles to stick. ... Obviously, Colorado struggled much of his career, but he never ducked an issue or cast blame on somebody ele. Those are traits people talk about being important, and in the NFL they are, because you have to be accountable.”
Projected round(s) by Rang: Sixth/undrafted free agent.
— Todd Milles, email@example.com