By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
This time, Darius Slay got the first look.
The former Mississippi State cornerback was selected by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the NFL Draft on Friday, with the 36th overall pick. Slay went seven picks ahead of teammate Johnthan Banks, who was taken by Tampa Bay.
Banks was the more prominent corner at MSU. A full-time starter for three years, he tied the school record for career interceptions with 16 and won the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior.
But Slay started turning heads last season. He made a team-best five interceptions – one more than Banks – and proved just as tough to throw against when teams looked away from Banks. A Senior Bowl appearance and strong showing in the NFL Combine – where he ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash – gave Slay’s stock a big boost.
“He’s really good in press coverage, he’s physical against the run, so we like this player,” Detroit GM Martin Mayhew said.
Banks, meanwhile, slipped down draft boards after getting some early first-round buzz. His 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the Combine was a big reason for it.
“When you watch the tape, it not same as what he ran at combine. That’s a big difference,” Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said.
After two years at Itawamba Community College, Slay was a reserve for MSU his junior year. He made one interception, which he returned 72 yards for a touchdown against Georgia.
Slay earned a starting role last season, and together he and Banks formed one of the SEC’s best cornerback tandems.
Banks was a multi-sport star at East Webster with no other Division I football offers, but he burst onto the scene as a freshman. In a game against Florida, he intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow twice, returning both for TDs, including a 100-yarder.