By Brandon Speck
BIGGERSVILLE – One of Biggersville’s biggest fans has a lot of fans of his own.
Watching the Lions practice last Wednesday as they prepare to try and repeat their Class 1A state title was Tampa Bay cornerback Johnthan Banks.
“I didn’t get to hang out with a pro athlete when I was that age,” Biggersville coach Cliff Little said. “We’re blessed. We appreciate him coming and talking to them. I think that meant a lot.”
The former Mississippi State star is heading to his second year in the NFL. He provided some laughs with his post-practice pep talk, but also serious motivation, like how many more rebounds each player ought to be getting.
No. 8 Biggersville (25-4) hosts Coldwater today at 4 p.m. in the North Mississippi Tournament.
The link between Banks and the Lions falls on Little, who as East Webster’s coach during Banks’ 2008 junior year, led the Wolverines to the Class 1A championship.
The two have remained close, as have he and other members of that team. Former Wolves’ star Mitchell McCurry watched the Lions in the state tournament last season. Banks talked with the team before a game last season, but this was the first practice speech.
“Coach Little’s like a father figure to me,” Banks said. “He took me under his wing. He showed me how to work, how to work hard and I really appreciate him for that. He’s one of the reasons I’m where I’m at today.”
Banks got his own motivation from one Lion. He gave a pair of Air Jordans to senior Marquis Watson, who he says inspires him by how fast he came off August ACL surgery in time for a postseason run.
“They get tired of hearing stuff from me and people around here,” Little said. “But it means a lot coming from somebody who’s been through it and been successful on a different level.”
Ties that bind
Little had to move home and emotionally leave East Webster after the championship. Banks and a talented returning team weren’t able to repeat. That has helped tie Biggersville and Banks, who also led East Webster to the 1A football championship game as a sophomore.
“Coach Little, he’s a great guy. Biggersville couldn’t have picked a better guy,” Banks said. “I just come and try to support him and try to motivate his team to do something I didn’t do, win back-to-back championships.”