Banks, from Maben, is fourth consecutive Southeastern Conference player to win the award.
He beat out Alabama’s Dee Milliner and Fresno State safety Phillip Thomas and is the first Bulldogs player to win a major national award.
“That means a lot ... it’s a blessing from God,” said an emotional Banks. “I couldn’t have done this without my team.”
Banks had 59 tackles, four interceptions and seven pass breakups this year. He was also chosen first-team All-SEC by the Associated Press.
Banks was presented the Thorpe Award by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby and former Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer on behalf of the Jim Thorpe Association.
“Thanks to the Bulldog nation for all the love and support,” Banks wrote Thursday night on his Twitter account.
He’s expected to be a high NFL draft pick in April.
Banks starred at East Webster High School, where he played quarterback, cornerback, receiver, punt returner and other positions. He led the Wolnerines to the Class 1A state title game as a sophomore.
A standout in basketball and baseball as well, Banks' only college scholarship offer was from MSU – which was just as well, because he has noted that it was the only place he wanted to go.
He burst onto the scene as a freshman at MSU with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdown off Florida's Tim Tebow, the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner. Banks has 16 career picks, tied with Walt Harris for the school record.
The Bulldogs (8-4) play Northwestern (9-3) in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.
Click here for College Football page and more on award winners.