Once Pierce Banbury’s high-school football status became fairly quickly established as a starting offensive lineman for the Oakton Cougars, he naturally began looking ahead to the next level.
Banbury knew he wanted to play Division I college football. The choice as to where, though, became involved as he began receiving multiple offers as a result of his size, ability and standout high-school performances.
After weighing options, the 2017 Oakton graduate chose the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Army and Air Force were among other Division I teams that recruited Banbury, who recently finished an accomplished four-year football career this past fall.
“I have many family legacies at the Naval Academy,” Banbury said. “So I knew I wanted to be in the Navy for the opportunities it gave me after school. That’s where I wanted to come to play Division I football and I was ready to serve my country. It was hard at times. I had doubts and had to learn to balance everything. But it definitely became everything I thought. I’ve met my best friends for life here.”
At Navy, Banbury worked hard from the start. He played a handful of football games for the prep-school team in Newport, R.I. his first year. Banbury made the main roster as a sophomore, playing a few snaps in two games.
As a junior, Banbury became the Midshipmen’s top center, remained a starter as a senior at 6-foot-2, 295 pounds at center and guard, and started two Army-Navy games. This past fall, he was chosen as an All-East Coast Athletic Conference offensive lineman.
“Pierce had a great career here and exceeded all expectations,” Navy offensive-line coach and running-game coordinator Ashley Ingram said. “He had great size and strength and was strong at the point of attack. But it was great to see Pierce really develop as a person and as a leader of that [offensive line] unit.”
Jason Rowley was Banbury’s head football coach at Oakton, when the lineman primary played left tackle. He wasn’t the least bit surprised Banbury excelled at Navy.
“We figured Pierce would be a center at Navy because he had the right measurables and I thought he’d be successful because of his strength,” Rowley said. “He was one of the strongest players we ever had, and he worked so hard at that. On Christmas Day, Pierce would be in the weight room. He was a good fit for Navy.”
Ingram said Banbury fit Navy’s running-game scheme to a T.
“You never know how a young man will adapt to Academy life. Pierce did so very well. He was very unselfish, very coachable, never complained and worked so hard.”
Banbury had strong bloodlines to become a college athlete. His father, John, was a standout state champion high school then Division I college swimmer at the University of Arkansas. His mom, Demby, played multiple college sports, then coached a variety of successful high-school sports teams.
Banbury also played lacrosse, wrestled and was on track and field teams at Oakton. In wrestling, he finished second in the Concorde District at the heavyweight division one season. In outdoor track and field, he placed in the shotput at district and region meets.
Prior to high school, Banbury was a year-round swimmer on various teams, including summer squads.
“I still love swimming. It came in handy for me at Navy, and got me out of a couple of things,” Banbury said.
With his college football career over, Banbury plans to graduate May 27, then maybe hold a position like that of a graduate assistant football coach at Navy next fall. In January of 2023, he’ll begin training in Virginia Beach as an information professional.
This past fall as a leader of the offensive line, Banbury was chosen to wear uniform No. 68. It honored the memory of former Navy starting offensive lineman David Forney. The three-year letter winner died in 2020 at age 22.
Ingram said Banbury reminded him of Forney.
“He’s a bruising inside presence. He’s tough, reliable and a great teammate,” Ingram said of Banbury.
Added Banbury: “It was special to wear that number. I looked up to Forney so much.”