John Arthur Banaszak was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 24, 1950. He developed a passion for sports at an early age that lead him to participate in multiple sports during his high school career. A 1968 graduate of Holy Name High School, John lettered in the sports of track and field, basketball, and football. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.
On January 15, 1969, Banaszak reported for boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island. Banaszak was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for three months before being stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point for his remaining time on active duty. Banaszak separated from the Marine Corps as a corporal, completing the training and duties of a supply clerk. While enlisted, Banaszak received the National Defense Service Medal and Rifle Expert Badge. Banaszak served in the Marine Corps as a reservist from January 15, 1971 to January 14, 1975.
In January of 1971, Banaszak enrolled at Eastern Michigan University (EMU). Since recently separating from the Marine Corps, he did not attend school originally on a scholarship. Due to his love for the sport of football, he attempted to walk-on to the Eagle football team. He made the team and received a full football scholarship starting in the fall. Banaszak went on to be a three-year starter at defensive end for the Eagles. In 1974, he received the E. J. Reynearson Scholar Athlete Award, and during his senior year, Banaszak was the football team captain.
Upon graduating from EMU in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Banaszak went undrafted by the National Football League (NFL), and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers; thus allowing him to become one of three rookies to make the team for the 1975 season. Serving primarily as a special teams’ player, Banaszak was a contributing member of the team, which defeated the Dallas Cowboys to win Super Bowl X. After his knee injury in 1977, he started 45 consecutive games at defensive end for the famed Steel Curtain Defense, along the way collecting back-to-back Super Bowl titles. In Super Bowl XIII, Banaszak was named Defensive Player of the Game as he recorded six tackles, two sacks, and a fumble recovery to help defeat the Dallas Cowboys, again. Following the conclusion of his career with the Steelers, Banaszak signed with the Michigan Panthers of the United States Football League (USFL) for the 1983 and 1984 seasons, winning a USFL championship in 1983. He went on to finish his playing career as a player/coach with the Memphis Showboats in 1985.
In 1993, Washington & Jefferson College football program offered him a position on the coaching staff. He served six years as an assistant football coach and later became the head football coach in 1999. His Presidents’ team amassed a 38-9 record from 1999-2002, along the way, Banaszak won the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Football Coach of the Year award four years in a row. In 2003, Banaszak joined the staff of the Robert Morris University Colonials. During his 14 seasons, the Colonials have led the Northeast Conference in total defense three times and finished in the top four in the league six times. Currently, Banaszak is the Robert Morris University Head Football Coach.
Banaszak was inducted into the Eastern Michigan University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985. In 2009, more honors followed with his induction into the Washington-Greene County Chapter Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.