Desire to be great motivates Banks

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Johnthan Banks strolled into Saturday’s postgame press conference sporting a pair of large, black-rimmed glasses – the kind my dad used to wear, the kind that’s become fashionable for pro athletes to wear when in front of a camera.
Banks, Mississippi State’s senior cornerback, is going to be a pro soon enough, so he’s getting a head start on the fashion game. He said he borrowed the specs from fellow corner Darius Slay.
As he took a seat, surrounded by reporters, Banks cracked, “Coach Mullen’s hating on my swag.”
He then commenced to talk about his 15th career interception earlier that evening in a 30-10 win over South Alabama. It was quite the play.
Banks was behind the intended receiver, T.J. Glover, as the ball came sailing his way. So Banks jumped high, reached around Glover’s helmet and plucked the ball away. He then raced 47 yards into South Alabama territory.
He’ll burn you
I couldn’t fully appreciate the skillfulness of that interception until I watched it on YouTube on Monday. As Banks noted, test him often enough, and he’ll burn you.
“I always know if you throw the ball around me five or six times, I’m going to get one of them,” he said.
Banks said he wasn’t trying to be cocky, but he has good reason to be. Two more interceptions, and he’ll break the school career record held by Walt Harris. He’s got nine games – I’m assuming a bowl game here – in which to break the mark.
As long as he’s healthy, I don’t see how Banks doesn’t break the record. He’s got three interceptions in four games already, second on the team to Slay’s four picks.
The question is whether he can reach 20 interceptions. Of course, he’ll have to do it against much tougher competition than what he’s faced so far. Seven of MSU’s next eight games are SEC opponents.
Well, consider this: Nine of his 15 INTs have come against league foes. Counterargument: He had only one pick over the final six games of 2011, and four of those were SEC contests.
Regardless of his final tally, Banks will go down as one of the best cornerbacks in MSU history. Maybe the best, period, with apologies to Fred Smoot, who had 10 interceptions during his two seasons in Starkville.
Interceptions alone do not define Banks as a player. He’s consistently good in coverage, and he can make plays near the line of scrimmage. On the season, he has 15 tackles, including one for a loss.
Against Troy the previous week, it was Banks blitzing off the corner on both of Slay’s interceptions.
Banks said Saturday, “I want to be great.” He already is.
brad.locke@journalinc.com