Vancouver, Washington, is situated along the Columbia River on the border between Washington and Oregon. Despite being officially in Washington, the city is considered a suburb of Portland, Oregon.
The nearest Division I football university is Oregon State, approximately 81 miles away, followed by Oregon (113 miles), Washington (140 miles), and Washington State (271 miles). All of these programs represent Power 5 conferences.
But for Arthur Ban (6’5, 205), born in Cameroon, who has lived in the greater Portland area since the age of two, his recruitment focused on a school 1,092 miles away from home.
“In all honesty, I feel like San Diego State was one of those schools that I was really waiting for,” said Ban on an upcoming episode of The SDSU Podcast. “It’s always been sort of a dream school for me.”
The 3-star tight end out of Evergreen High School held offers from Air Force, Army, Colorado State, and Idaho as he entered the summer before his high school senior year. Ban had primarily played a hybrid wide receiver/tight end role, typically flexed out in the slot and rarely asked to put his hand in the dirt and block on the line.
In early June, Ban’s dream school offer became a reality. His wide receiver’s coach, Jamar Howard, introduced Ban to SDSU tight ends coach Savai’i Eselu at a football showcase on Saturday, June 3rd.
“I immediately felt (Eselu’s) energy, and that interested me,” recalls Ban.
Two days later, Eselu contacted Ban and made the offer. Given Ban’s status as a Class of 2024 recruit, the typical practice from any high school in his position would have been to announce the offer on social media and keep his options open. Maybe the Power 5 schools near his hometown would come calling at some point to sweeten his choices.
Clearly, Ban isn’t the typical recruit. He committed to Eselu and SDSU on the spot and posted the offer and commitment on Twitter on the same day.
Beyond grateful to receive a Division 1 offer from @AztecFB and after a great conversation with coach @s_eselu and speaking with my family I would like to say that I am 1000% committed to the University of San Diego State!! #GoAZTECS @B12PFootball @BrandonHuffman @SwainChristian5 pic.twitter.com/4e9iX68VrY
— Arthur Ban (@ArthurBan_) June 6, 2023
“I talked to my head coach about it beforehand about how I was going to go about proceeding after they had offered me since they are the school that I had my eyes on for a minute,” Ban said. “They all agreed that just football-wise, (it) was the best opportunity that I had. With the school going to the Pac-12 and also academically, they matched the majors I wanted. (They have) a great business school. My parents are really happy to hear that I was going there, so it just fit everything.”
Location was another big factor for Ban, who said he has visited San Diego previously for 7-on-7 tournaments and family vacations. He also will endear himself to the hearts of Aztec Nation with his thoughts on Southern California cities.
“The entire environment of California itself was somewhere that I was always interested in moving to when I grew older, and I feel like I preferred the atmosphere of San Diego versus Los Angeles because I feel like that’s just kind of too much for me,” remarked Ban. “I don’t know if I want to live in that city or like San Francisco. I feel like (San Diego) just fits me because it’s relaxed, but also, you’re in the middle of the city. I feel like it’s just a perfect balance for me.”
While football will ultimately provide Ban the opportunity to play at the collegiate level and earn an education, he grew up only playing basketball through middle school, utilizing his length and athleticism as a dunker, defender, and rebounder.
Heading into the eighth grade, Ban finally followed his dad’s suggestion to play football to help him become a more physical basketball player. He admits he was not very good initially but kept working harder heading into high school. Eventually, he found some success and fell in love with the game.
Given his experience playing mostly slot receiver, Ban sees his current strengths better suited for the passing game.
“I trust my footwork and my route running a lot, and I feel like that’s the main advantage I have versus a lot of people in this position who rely solely or a lot more on their size,” responded Ban when asked what separates him from other tight ends. “I feel like I’m in a good position of being able to already have the footwork and the route running, and then gain size on top of that will just create more dominance.”
While Ban boasts an impressive 84.5-inch wingspan, he currently only weighs 205 lbs, undersized for a tight end. Last season, he was at 190. He hopes to gain 5 to 7 pounds this summer before his senior season, where he will be asked to block more and another 8 to 10 by the time he graduates. At 220 lbs, he would profile closer to how some of the tight ends on the SDSU roster, Logan Tanner and Cameron Harpole, came into the program.
“I’ve already been adjusting my meals and trying to keep track as much as I can to make sure I’m gaining weight efficiently,” Ban explained. “Me and my head coach (have) been trying to make sure I’m gaining good weight and not just bad weight from fast food and things like that.”
A former SDSU tight end who also came into the program weighing 220 lbs, Daniel Bellinger, is a name Ban has become very familiar with over the past few weeks. Bellinger’s rise in overall size and biceps throughout his collegiate and one NFL season has taken social media by storm recently.
— New York Post Sports (@nypostsports) June 9, 2023
Ban spoke to Eselu about the transformation Bellinger made in weight during his four years at SDSU, entering at 220 and leaving for the NFL at 255.
“I have researched (Bellinger) and what he came in at … I also saw some words that Bellinger had to say about coach Eselu and how he kind of transformed him into the player he is,” added Ban.
As for the picture that showed Bellinger’s before and after that made its rounds on social media, Ban found it incredibly inspiring.
“I always want to have someone to look up to, and I feel like going to the same school, that’s definitely a good goal for myself to be able to gain that weight and progress in a somewhat similar way as he did,” said Ban.
Ban finds motivation from other tight ends who were in similar positions as himself, switching over from wide receiver. He named David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns as a tight end he studies and models his game after.
The 6’4 Njoku arrived on campus at Miami as a 217 lb wide receiver. Three years later, he was selected 29th overall by the Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft as a 246 lb tight end.
Ban has a long road ahead of him to reach the stage Bellinger and Njoku are currently at. But the hard-working and dedicated Washingtonian by way of Cameroon is hoping to be the next great SDSU tight end playing in the NFL.
Avid sports fan and historian of basketball, baseball, football and soccer. UC San Diego and San Diego State alumni living in America’s Finest City. Diverse team following across multiple sports leagues, but Aztecs come first in college athletics.