"I'm the guy you want."
This is how Laurence Manning's Brandon King describes himself.
There wasn't a cocky tone in Brandon's voice when he offered this statement, however it was definitely backed by confidence. King plays a key role on both the football field, where he plays wide receiver and linebacker, and on the basketball court, where he plays in the front court.
In order to appreciate the confidence that Brandon has, you have to understand the severity of injury he dealt with two seasons ago and what it took for him to be an even better player after his recovery process.
The Swapmcats faced Wilson Hall on the football field on Oct. 20, 2020. Brandon was a sophomore at the time and suffered an injury that would change his young adult life.
"When I tore my ACL, I was running a 10-yard out route and the dude came and hit me on the side and I was just thinking I hyperextended my knee," Brandon explained. "The trainer had told me it was hyperextended. I went back out there and it was hurting a little bit. I went up for a fade at like the 10-yard line and when I came down and took a step, my knee gave out. I had started crying out and was thinking, how could this happen?
"Everybody was shook," Brandon continued. " When I got injured the stadium went quiet. On the following Monday back at school, I still didn't know if I actually tore my ACL. I was telling people I was fine and it was just a strain. The next day, they came to my class and told me I tore my ACL. I told all my teammates and they didn't believe it, they didn't want to believe it."
Brandon's older brother, Christian Bankhead was at the game and knew the injury was pretty serious as soon as it happened.
"When Brandon got hit, I knew he tore it," Christian said. "I could tell by the way he got hit. When he went down and started screaming, I knew exactly what it was. I really think he tore it all the way when he went back in the game, but it did tear when he first got hit."
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
It was Christian, along with the doctors and trainers, that Brandon gives the most credit to for helping in his recovery.
"It was a tough process but the trainers at Apex (Prisma Health Apex Athletic Performance) got me right," Brandon said. "They were fun to be around, it made me want to be there. My brother was also a big part in my rehab process. My brother would drive me up to Columbia multiple times a week for my rehab. He was a big part of my rehab process, always encouraging me and working me out."
Bankhead watched as Brandon recovered, but also found ways to motivate the young Swampcat.
"The whole journey is crazy," Christian said. "He did his physical therapy out at Apex in Columbia, they are some of the best in the state. I give them all the credit. It was a nine-month recovery period. Brandon had to relearn how to walk and run. I was driving Brandon to Columbia every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Every day, on top of therapy, I was killing him in the weight room just to get him back to where he was at. He didn't get cleared until like three weeks before the season."
Christian saw a side of his brother that he had never seen during that recovery process.
"To be honest, that whole recovery process showed me how much he loved the game," Christian said. "I knew he always had a passion for it and had a love for it but that really changed things. Everything prior to his 11th grade year was all God-given talent. Brandon was always busy, he ran track and played basketball and football.
"The recovery process is when he really started taking things to the next level. I could tell that playing football was something that he wanted to do for the rest of his life. That training put something in him that I didn't even know he had."
The relationship that Brandon and Christian have is uniquely close. Christian is 10 years older than the Swampcat, but Brandon sees him as a father figure as much as a brother.
"He's done a lot for me and continues to push me. We talk every day. I look up to him as a leader. There are times that I want to be like him as I'm going to do bigger things," Brandon said. "I always looked up to him because he played football. I always wanted to play football but I didn't until my fourth grade year because my mom didn't want me to get any head injuries. So, I would always watch him play. I would also watch him play basketball, whether it was AAU or in the summer, it just made me want to play that more."
Christian loves the bond he shares with his younger brother.
"Yeah. Brandon and I have been together since he was born," Christian said. " Brandon and I are my mom's only two kids, so I practically raised him. I tried to do my best to show him the right way, how to do the right things, how to live, how to be respectful, mannerable and really installed that work ethic in him at a young age.
"I'll take credit for putting the belief in him before he even knew, before me and my mom knew. The dawg mentality was something I tried to instill in him early on."
BRACING TO RETURN
Brandon was able to return to the field and court during his junior year, but he didn't really feel like his old self. There was the common hesitation to make certain moves and cuts, but also just a lack of trust in his own body. This went away with time, but there was a particular moment that allowed Brandon to get over the mental hurdle as he shed a physical restraint.
"Football season didn't go as well as I planned," Brandon admitted. "But during basketball season I took my brace off midseason. That's when things felt different. I felt like the brace was keeping me back."
The decision to take the brace off was not as simple.
"I remember him begging me to take the brace off,'' Laurence Manning basketball coach Will Epps said. "I would tell him that it was not my decision and he would have to get approval from doctors. When he took it off, he started running faster and jumping higher.
"It gave him a rebirth so to speak."
That rebirth turned into a successful remainder of the basketball season and a successful off-season. Brandon spent his summer playing 7-on-7 football and attended football camps at Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State.
CONFIDENT SENIOR LEADER
Brandon wants everyone to be aware that he's confident in his abilities, he just won't verbalize it. He prefers that his actions speak for him.
"I'm not really like a vocal leader," Brandon admitted. "My actions show my leadership. I may not say a lot, but on the field, but my game shows it off. I can do whatever the coach needs me to."
During his senior season on the gridiron, Brandon seen noteworthy improvement. As Laurence Manning moves to an offense that features more passing, his explosiveness is felt on both sides of the ball.
"Brandon has been phenomenal, especially this year," Swampcat head football coach Will Furse said. "Offensively, he's drawn a ton of attention from other teams. He's been double teamed a ton and he's still having production there at wide receiver. Defensively, he's been exceptional. Teams don't really throw or run the ball to his side. He's had a position change to outside linebacker and he's excelled at it. He's had a great year tackling."
Brandon may not be loud, but Furse can see the impact he has on his teammates.
"He is tremendous as a leader," Furse said. "All of our young guys and even our older guys look up to Brandon. He is trying to be a vocal leader, he's improved a ton in that aspect as well. Just seeing one of your best players also practice really hard, that increases the urgency for everyone else to practice well and that's really been a huge help for us."
Brandon has a few personal goals for the remainder of the football season and for his final basketball season that includes amassing 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns on the gridiron and becoming the third 1,000-point scorer at LMA during Epps' tenure.
Christian has one message for everyone regarding his little brother.
"I say this as humble as I know how, do not sleep on Brandon King."
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