Tech. Sgt. Martez "Tez" Banks stands well above six-foot with a built figure, neither slim nor stocky and most who meet him wouldn't assume the 45 year-old's athletic prowess.
The Air Force Reservist and Palace Acquire intern paired up with friend Michelle Staley to win the combined mixed 8.0 doubles tennis title at the Techna-Glass Adult Ice Breaker tournament earlier this month in Salt Lake City.
And in a sport where most players learn to play tennis around the same time they learn to talk, Banks, who is self-taught, stands as an oddity.
"It's nice when someone at this level, who is really a pair above you and played in college, comes up to you to ask who you played for and who taught you your game," Banks said.
Staley and Banks came into the 16-team tournament unseeded and breezed through, taking down the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals and the No. 2 seed in the title match. The pair took three out of their four opponents in straight sets, meaning the typical three-game tennis match was won in two games instead.
Staley and Banks became partners after Staley began her search for a 4.5 ranked player to compliment her 3.5 ranking, totaling 8.0 for the mixed competition. Staley found it hard to get a player to "play down" with her level of competition, mentioning most doubles partners in the tournament were ranked 4.0 each. After scouring the USTA local listings and getting turned down at every request, Staley turned to a friend for recommendations. And Banks was one of them.
"When you get to a certain level, guys get really cocky, but Tez is always offering to help me with my game," Staley said.
The title was just one of many of Banks' achievements. Banks became the top-ranked tennis player in the Missouri Valley region after competing in, and winning, a handful of matches.
He also graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 2009 after a tennis partner and good friend, Troy Petit, encouraged him to finally tackle his education. Banks was the first member of his mother's family to graduate from college, let alone with honors.
Banks has been playing tennis for 25 years after accidentally falling in love with the sport his sophomore year in high school.
Originally, he wanted to play baseball, but after some family business took him from his high school in Georgia back to his hometown, Detroit, Mich., and back to Georgia again, Banks was deemed ineligible by the local Georgia high school sports governing committee.
So, he explored his options, and after being denied again by the committee in football and basketball, Banks turned to tennis. And he hasn't looked back since. Although he still says baseball is still his No. 1, he admits to tennis as a close No. 2.
Throughout his life, Banks has made sure to make physical fitness a priority, never letting it slip out of routine. In college, he was on Michigan's bowling team and still plays basketball, softball, football, tennis and bowling. He describes tennis as a good activity during times of stress, saying it helped him cope with hard times in his life. He chuckled, adding, "Tennis was a good outlet when you want to hit something."
In addition to his responsibilities at Hill, Banks helps teach tennis to underprivileged kids in Clearfield. He says he likes to show the kids an outlet, an escape.
"It's easy for me to take an experience and put a spin on it to cut the playing curve, to show them someone cares," Banks said.
And after growing up in a rough neighborhood underneath abusive parents and on the move more than any child wishes to be, Banks finds solace in helping the kids find a place to work through their problems.
As a black man, Banks has experienced racism on the court as well, but regardless of his past or people's perceptions of him today, he's beaten the odds, saying "... I'm still standing."