Robert Franklin-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Franklin-USA TODAY Sports

OL Aaron Banks on his early days as a hometown 49er, his Notre Dame influences, more

May 14, 2021 at 2:08 PM--

Being from the Bay Area has given 49ers offensive lineman Aaron Banks a different start to his NFL career than the rest of his fellow rookies, in a very convenient way.

Banks, who grew up in Alameda, California before moving away to play his college football at Notre Dame, was at home in the Bay Area when the 49ers announced on April 30 that they'd be making him their second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Since then, he's had the pleasure of being able to hop in a car and make the drive down to Santa Clara to 49ers facilities instead of the much longer trip that the rest of his draft class needed to make. That proximity to Santa Clara has helped Banks get comfortable this week as he and the other rookies take part in rookie minicamp.

"It's definitely made the transition very easy," Banks told reporters on Friday. "I didn't have to travel very far. After the draft I just came down the road, so that was really nice."

Banks' knowledge of the Bay Area will likely come in handy for himself as well as his teammates once they're able to ask for his feedback. They haven't had much of a chance to do that to this point, however.

"I actually haven't gotten too many questions about life in the Bay Area yet," Banks said. "We actually haven't been together really. We've been a little bit separate, the rookie class, just because of COVID protocols."

On the other hand, the other rookies won't have to worry about the outside presence of any family or lifelong friends, like Banks may have to down the line. But Banks is keeping his focus on what's in front of him this week and will worry about others when the time comes.

"I haven't thought twice about it," Banks said. "When I can help some of my family I will, but if I can't, I'm going to say no. I don't think that has been on my mind at all. I've been focused on this minicamp."

Among the things Banks will have the chance to do this weekend and in the days ahead is get to know first-round draft pick Trey Lance. Banks says he's shared a few words with Lance so far but hasn't spoken with at length.

"We haven't sat down and talked, but we talked passing by and had a couple conversations here and there," Banks said.

Not knowing Lance or any of the other rookies adds an element of newness to rookie minicamp for Banks, even if he does have the convenience of living in the area. But once he has the chance to get to know them all, it'll surely make him feel even more at home than he already does.

"Yeah, it feels like I'm a freshman in college again," Banks said. "So, you know, just getting to know my class and the guys who are here. I'm really looking forward to getting the chance to hang out with those guys."

Here's a quick rundown of some of the other topics Banks discussed during his media session on Friday.

* His Notre Dame connections: Banks is the latest in a distinguished line of talented offensive linemen to reach the NFL out of Notre Dame. One of those is his 49ers teammate Mike McGlinchey, who was more than happy to see Banks join the roster. Banks and McGlinchey have maintained a relationship over the past few years, although they'll be communicating much more now that they're both on the same team.

"We've stayed in contact over the years, so nothing has changed too much -- of course talking a little bit more now that we're potentially playing next to each other," Banks said. "But he's been extremely helpful and has answered any questions that I've had for him."

Another Notre Dame product Banks is familiar with is All-Everything guard Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts. Banks not surprisingly has kept a close eye on Nelson over the past few seasons and has picked up some pointers along the way.

"I actually would watch a lot of tape of Quenton and just how he plays," Banks said. "I personally think he was the best guard in the NFL in the past few years. So I would watch a lot of his stuff in the NFL and when he was in college. Certain parts of his game I would try to emulate my game after."

But don't expect Banks to pattern his game after Nelson too much. He plans on trying to carve his own path now that he's in the NFL.

"Of course I see good players and try to adapt certain things they would do with their hands or how they approach certain blocks," Banks said. "But all in all, I'm nobody but myself. So I'm going to approach everything as Aaron Banks and be the best me I can be."

* Any weight changes on the way? There's been some question around whether or not 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan might ask Banks (6-5, 330) to slim down a bit if he felt it would help him move faster in the offense. That hasn't happened yet, but Banks is more than willing to do so if called upon.

"He picked me having a plan," Banks said. "He drafted me and I know he has a plan, so whatever they tell me to do, I'm just going to do it. If they tell me they need me to drop weight, I'm going to drop weight. Whatever the strength staff and nutrition staff puts out for me, I'm going to take it head on."

* No playbook issues: Like other rookies, Banks is just getting started when it comes to learning the 49ers' playbook. But he feels well-prepared for the task based on what he experienced in college.

"We had a pretty big playbook at Notre Dame. I think they did a great job of preparing us for playbooks of this caliber. So I don't think that anything that has been given to me has been anything I've looked at and thought 'That's going to be too much. I'm going to have a hard time learning that.'"

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