By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – You’d better believe Johnthan Banks has the YouTube clip bookmarked.
It’s easy to find. Just type “banks florida interception” into the search field, and there it is. Florida quarterback Tim Tebow is blitzed, throws an ill-advised pass, cornerback Corey Broomfield tips it, and Banks snags it a couple of yards deep in the end zone and races the other way for a touchdown.
The scrawny freshman’s score, officially 100 yards, brought MSU within three points at halftime. Florida would go on to win, but Banks’ heroics will live on in MSU lore, and he understands why.
“You’ve got to think about it. I did something not too many kids did – Eric Berry,” said Banks, referring to the former Tennessee safety, who before Banks was the only player to get a pick-six off Tebow. “I’m not going to put myself in Eric Berry’s category, but you just think about that. You can think about it, but you’ve got to let it go on, because it’s a new year. We’ve got bigger plans.”
Banks is now a slightly less scrawny sophomore, and he’s moved from free safety last year to cornerback this year. It’s his more natural position, and one of many positions he excelled at on the East Webster High School football team.
Banks isn’t sure who he’ll be covering on Saturday when MSU meets Florida again – this time in Gainesville – but the Gators are going to notice No. 13. Banks said he’s “pretty sure” Florida will remember him, but it’s hard to get this kid to pound his chest.
“Like I said, I didn’t really do nothing spectacular that game but just run. … This year I’m a better player, I know my stuff, and I’m just going to go out there and play.”
We should note the sequence of events on that interception of Tebow. Defensive end Pernell McPhee rushed in from the right side of Florida’s defense while linebacker Chris White blitzed from the left. Tebow threw off his back foot, Broomfield got a hand on it, and Banks swooped in to pick it.
That play was an opportunistic one, and Banks just has a knack for being around the ball.
As coach Dan Mullen noted, when you’re a multi-sport star at a Class 1A high school like Banks was, “you’re a ball guy.” Banks is becoming more than that now.
“John is now developing himself into a football player, not just a guy that has good instincts on the field,” Mullen said. “He’s becoming an every-down football player.”
That is Banks’ focus now – improving each game and becoming a cornerback opposing quarterbacks have to worry about. He had four interceptions last season but none so far this year.
So he’s due. Perhaps he’ll get a big one against Florida this week, but it’d have to be awfully dramatic to top last year’s feat, which he’s reminded of constantly by fans and people like me.
“I hear it all the time,” Banks said. “I don’t have a problem with it. I’ve got little kids running around all the time asking me how I feel.”
By the way, Banks really does have the clip bookmarked on his computer.
“Yeah, I got it. I had to.”
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.