November 19, 2009

Banks coming out of obscurity

Coming from a small Class 1A school in the tiny community of Cumberland, Miss., weighing only 160-pounds, Johnthan Banks was one of Mississippi State's likely redshirt candidates from the class of 2009.

But the 6-foot-2 former three-sport prep star packed on 15-pounds during the offseason and worked his way into a starting role in the Bulldogs secondary.

Banks began the year working primarily on special teams and as a reserve cornerback but when junior safety Zach Smith was lost for the season after another concussion, the true freshman was right there to fill that void.

"I didn't expect to come in and play right away as a freshman because I weight 160-pounds when I first got here," Banks said. "Coach (Matt) Balis did a great job with me and pushed me in the weight room and got weight on me. Coach (Carl) Torbush and his defensive staff all worked with me on my technique and learned everything and I got in there to play."

Banks earned his first career start against Houston and has been at safety ever since. He pulled down two interceptions in his second start at Middle Tennessee and followed it up by picking off Tim Tebow twice and returning them both for touchdowns the following week.

Banks 100-yard return just before the half earned top billing on ESPN's Top 10 plays of the day and helped him earn SEC Freshman of the Week. But the humble 19-year old who was raised in Maben by his grandmother Maggie did not let the attention go to his head.

"I came back and was still the same person," Banks said. "It was great getting those interceptions but we lost. It doesn't mean as much to you when you lose. You can't really celebrate. That all happened through the grace of God, great coaches and great people around me. I feel like stuff like that happens to good people. I feel like I am a good person. I feel like this whole team is surrounded by good people so that's why I feel like good things are going to happen for this team."

The now 175-pounder has played in all 10 games for MSU this season making 28 tackles, four interceptions and three pass deflections. His four picks has him tied for second in the conference.

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