NFL Legend Carl Banks On G-III Apparel, Starter Jackets, Eddie Murphy, And The New York Giants

As an All-Pro NFL linebacker, a two-time Super Bowl Champion and a Michigan State Hall Of Famer, Carl Banks had a football career that most athletes could only dream of. Selected to the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team and named the New York Giants’ Alumni Man Of The Year in 2010 — the latter honor earned as a result of volunteer work with the Boys And Girls Clubs Of America and The Valerie Fund — Banks is remembered fondly both on and off the field. He has also been part of New York Giants radio broadcasts since 2007.

However, Carl Banks has also held his own within the world of fashion. Before becoming the founder and president of G-III Sports, which is part of the multi-billion dollar G-III Apparel Group, Banks was one of the first athlete ambassadors for Starter. Things have since come full circle for Banks, as G-III holds exclusive licenses for all MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL and NCAA teams, producing Satin Starter Team Jackets. Among the celebrities seen wearing recent Starter threads are Spike Lee, Snoop Dogg, A$AP Rocky, Beyoncé, and Rihanna.

On behalf of The Inquisitr, I spoke to Mr. Banks about his one-of-a-kind, multi-tiered career. He not only comes across as personable and insightful, but incredibly inspirational. More on G-III can be found at www.giii.com, while himself can be followed on Twitter via @CarlBanksGIII.

Is there a professional accomplishment from your NFL career that you are most proud of? Your appearance(s) in the Super Bowl?

Carl Banks: The professional accomplishment that I am most proud of without a doubt would be my first Superbowl win. I think I played as perfectly in the game as I could ever have. Then I think from a professional business standpoint, I believe just growing a business from nothing to where it is today, it is kind of my “Superbowl” in business.

To be able to be regarded as one of the top licensees in the consumer products business in Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association is quite an accomplishment. So to go from an idea to really growing a business, to being respected as one of the best in the business, is as beautiful as being in a Superbowl.

Are you in touch with a lot of your old teammates? Does The Big Blue Wrecking Crew see one another much?

Carl Banks: We stay in touch a lot. Obviously, when you are part of a championship team, it is a lifetime bond, and we keep in touch. A lot of the guys are still in town but we often check on each other and our captain Harry Carson, we call him “Captain” for life because he kind of makes sure everyone stays in touch. He gives us updates if anyone is not doing well and we’re grateful for him. We’re just grateful for our bond that we had together. I mean, to be a champion it goes beyond just a performance, you really have to care about the people that you are playing with, and I think that was so special and to this day, Bill Parcells and I, we talk once or twice a week. It is not always football, but he is a big sport lover. He loves horses and basketball and things like that, so we talk college basketball this time of year, but he will be in the baseball next.

When in your career did you realize the need to be diversified as a businessman? Were you inspired by a specific person?

Carl Banks: When I look at how my business career started, it started the first year I began as a Giants football player…Actually, I started thinking about it while I was still at Michigan State [University] because I didn’t realize I was going to be drafted and didn’t think I would have the career that I had just based on some of the things that went on in college. We weren’t a very good football team, but I knew I was going to give it my best, but I had some interests. Fashion has always been an interest. Broadcasting, I was a Communication major at Michigan State University and I thought I’d be writing commercials if I wasn’t playing professional sports. So it is definitely something that I wanted to do.

I think Bryant Gumbel, in terms of role models and somebody I looked up to, Bryant and Greg Gumbel were two of the people that I really admired and just really wanted to emulate because of their professionalism and their abilities to articulate and to really enunciate and to really communicate. I guess that’s what you really want to call that, and it was something that I have always aspired to emulate, so when I got a chance to meet both of those men, and they are fantastic, they’ve always offered advice whenever I needed it.

In terms of my apparel business, I saw an opportunity probably my second year in the NFL. I was one of the first players that Starter, the sideline apparel company, signed as a player endorser and I got a chance to spend some time with David Beckerman, and I said when I grow up I want to be just like him. He captured the essence of sports through fashion, and I thought that was the coolest thing, and he had just a culture around him that just made everyone gravitate towards the brand. It was cool, but it was also the most authentic; before there was Nike or any of these other guys on the sidelines, it was Starter and they started it all. But in doing so I was also looking at how I could become part of the sports licensing mix, and I realized that with everything going on in the early 80s, no one was making leather jackets, so I designed a collection of leather jackets, took it to the NFL and they gave me the opportunity to begin my business career while I was still playing.

It was my second year in the league, and so I had Big & Tall suede jackets, and it did well, and then they gave me Big & Tall suede and leather jackets and I kind of made my bones until I eventually proved that I was a very good producer of outerwear. I partnered with G3 Apparel, and we took it to the next level, and today we’re more than just outerwear, we’re swimwear, we are ladies’ apparel, we’re men’s activewear, we’re women’s activewear. We have some great brands in the stable like Touch By Alyssa Milano and Hands High by Jimmy Fallon, so I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we’re just scratching the surface.

You are an in-demand radio broadcaster. Did you have to take broadcasting classes to get into that field?

Carl Banks: The interesting thing about my broadcasting career…I took Communications in college, and yes, I did take the classes. But I kind of created my own path…While I was playing for the Giants, Coca-Cola and I used to do a post-game and pre-game report. So after the games were over with, I would go to the press box and do a segment after the game, “Win, Lose Or Draw.” I also created a kind of a scouting report or a pre-game report that I would record with Bob Papa every week and this was long before this was in vogue, I was there. So I went and found my own sponsors, and so that model has continued with good broadcasting with WFAN, I am on the Giants’ broadcast network, we do some TV, so broadcasting has always been something I love to do and I hope to continue to do that.

How did the opportunity to be involved with Starter come about?

Carl Banks: So the interesting thing about the Starter brand and how that came about, I was developing some heritage collection varsity jackets and had some pretty good ideas. Then I saw a picture of Coming To America, Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall wearing a Jets Starter Jacket and I went to the NFL to say, “I want to do this collection, I would love to do it under Starter.” Starter at that time, which was like three years ago, was not part of the NFL family anymore, so I asked them if I could make a deal with Starter, would they extend my license to that brand. So I went to the IP holder, which is Iconics Group, of the Starter label and asked him if they wouldn’t mind partnering or licensing me to do the brand in professional sports because it had been only at Walmart and branded products for the last, I don’t know, four, five years. They said yes, and away we went.

As soon as we launched it, you know it is just such an emotional connection with the people who wore it and then a new generation that loves it, that loves wearing vintage heritage products. So it took off, and we’re on our way, and we’re continuing to grow the brand and we’re growing in colleges, we’re growing in some other categories that you’ll start to see activewear.

What’s coming up for the Starter brand?

Carl Banks: The Starter library of silhouettes in clothing, keep in mind they were the original sideline apparel brand for all of sports, so they have a vault full of styles that we’re just scratching the surface with. I will say stay tuned we’ve got some very interesting activewear coming up that is heritage, that no one has seen in a long time, so we’re excited about that.

Is there anything you haven’t yet accomplished professionally but still hope to?

Carl Banks: Well, in terms of accomplishments, I subscribe to the adage of, success is a journey not a destination. I think there is a lot more for me to accomplish, I am just now starting to scratch the surface, there are a few things that I do want to accomplish in the apparel business, broadcasting and just professionally. I just want to continue to grow and surround myself with great people and learn, but it is a journey for me, it is not a destination. I don’t have an end point; I just want to keep growing it.

When not busy with Starter or appearances, how do you like to spend your free time?

Carl Banks: Well, when I am not busy with the various brands that we have, Starter, G-III For Her, G-III Sports By Carl Banks, Touch By Alyssa Milano, I just like to unwind. I love travel, plan to see the world as much of it as possible, and to enjoy the culture of each place, each destination I go to. So I would like to say travel, food, leisure is my pastime. I am a big traveler, I am a foodie, I like to combine those two and I enjoy it. I enjoy working out, I enjoy golf as well.

Hobbies aside, is there something you wish more people knew about Carl Banks?

Carl Banks: In terms of my hobbies, I love golf, I love music, love cooking, but none of those things do I wish people knew about. I think the less they know about it the more I can enjoy it. I think I give myself a lot, I am a private person but not a secretive one. I enjoy life, I am very personable but when it comes to spending time with my friends and traveling, I do that and I don’t like of fanfare around. I just like to enjoy it with the people that I love and care about.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?

Carl Banks: Restaurants in New York, I have a few, but I can’t say that there is a favorite. There is great Italian, there are great steakhouses, I just enjoy good food. But I would say that if there is one restaurant that is my favorite, it’s got to be Trattoria L’incontro, but it is not in New York City, it is actually in Queens. Rocco Sacramone is the chef and…it is one of the best, if not the best, restaurant in New York. So if you want great Italian, you’re going to go there and have just an incredible meal. Rocco is the best and the restaurant is in Astoria, Queens. I love it so much I am going to give you the address, it is 21-76 31st Street, Astoria, New York. It is the best, it is on 31st Street but the address is 21-76.

Finally, Carl, any last words for the kids?

Carl Banks: I think the advice that I would give any kid is that I would say anything is possible but keep in mind that your success comes through you not to you, so you have to be proactive, opportunistic and willing to learn.

[Featured Image by Rob Kim / Stringer]

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