Banks Proud To Represent Dogs At Media Days

Johnthan Banks knows his talents. And, he knows equally well when to seek expert advice. Such as, what to wear next week at SEC Media Day. "I've got my sister in law and my girlfriend, they're going to hook me up pretty nice. I'm not really into fashion all that much. So whatever you see on me, they picked it out!"

Truthfully, Banks would be entirely content showing up at the Wynfrey in casual garb. But the senior cornerback knows there is nothing much else casual about next Wednesday's appearance before the league media horde. Banks, along with quarterback Tyler Russell, guard Gabe Jackson, and Coach Dan Mullen will be speaking for Mississippi State in the morning session.

"I've heard Media Day can be stressful, a lot of weird questions," Banks said. Yet, "I'm actually looking forward to it, it's something I wanted to do. I'm glad I got the respect of Coach Mullen and all them to pick me. I feel like I'm one of the captains on the team so it's an honor to be picked to go to media days."

Speaking of honors and being picked… It's been a productive summer for Banks, who as of today has been selected to six various pre-season teams, awards, and/or watch lists. They range from third-team all-SEC in a couple of publications, to all-American, and all in between. Most noteworthy is his place on watch lists for both the Lott and Bednarik Awards already, and almost assured nomination for the Thorpe which comes out later in the week.

All this reflects just how prominent a place this Bulldog has earned in the national football consciousness. Not, though, that Banks is overly conscious of the attention. Oh, it's nice to hear his name called among college football's elite defensive players. But this Maben boy can keep a cool head in the preseason heat.

"I just try to be myself. Keep doing the things that got me the hype. It's so hard not to pay attention to all the stuff coming at you but I try to be humble and keep myself around my teammates and just try to stay where I've been.

"My honors and whatever in the preseason ain't going to determine what makes our season. I'm looking at this team to be one of the top teams in the country and I'm just going to keep working hard and not listen to none of that."

Besides, there are plenty other folk happy to talk about Banks for him. Especially because he enters the senior season tied for fourth among active NCAA players in career interceptions, with an even dozen; and tied for first in touchdown returns with three. Now this is one area where Banks doesn't mind sounding proud; he wants the Mississippi State interceptions record and doesn't care who hears it. That mark is 16 picks by Walt Harris, from 1992-95.

"It really does matter to me," says Banks. "I'm not going to lie. I'm looking forward to breaking the record, if I don't I'm going to be pretty disappointed. But if I don't I hope I at least get one pick, that will move me up to second and I won't feel too bad being behind a guy that played in the NFL, what, fifteen years? That's an honor."

Another reason Banks needn't feel so concerned about records is the likelihood of his own professional future. In fact, he quietly considered an early exit after the 2011 season, a la Fletcher Cox. Fortunately for the Bulldog defense, Banks followed the lead of classmate Josh Boyd and chose a senior season at Scott Field.

And there are no off-season regrets, he reports. Just the contrary.

"This is the most fun I've had since I've been here," says Banks, albeit "Sometimes I'll think about it, we'll be out there running sprints and stuff and I'll be like man, why did I come back?!

"But I'm just trying to enjoy, not rushing nothing, trying to spend time with my teammates. Because you don't get this back. You only get to play college football once and it really does make me way more appreciative that I came back and got to experience this one more time."

There are a couple of additional reasons Banks wanted to come back for more. More winning for one; after 16 victories the last two seasons including triumphs in both the Gator and Music City bowls, a guy only gets hungrier for more such success. And then Banks is one of ten Bulldogs with the chance to score four consecutive Egg Bowl victories; in his case a four-of-four career since Banks never redshirted.

Besides, the 2012 squad is shaping up into something Banks believes can become pretty special. "I told Coach Mullen that I've been here four years under Coach (Matt) Balis and this is the hardest working team I've ever been around."

"You can tell, because guys coming back (for the second summer semester) take it like they just got off a break. I had guys texting me saying they didn't want to take off, they were ready to go back now and come back for classes. Guys trying to get in the weightroom, trying to go run. We had a little team get-together, I didn't go, but some guys got together and did some stuff on their own. I love to see that, it's just a blessing to see them go hard and want to be great."

Which is what Banks plans for himself as well. Never mind all his records and statistics and three outstanding seasons in the Bulldog secondary. This senior is approaching the final season with intent to upgrade his game. Not just on the field, either.

"One thing I tried to work on was my leadership skills. Being a leader is hard, you have to be great all the time, you can't make mistakes. You have to lead by example. That's the main thing I've been trying to work on, being a leader of the team and the defense." A defense, he adds, which ought to be among the elite…and not only in the Southeastern Conference.

"We've got a lot of athletes in the secondary. Me, Slay, Broom, Love, Calhoun, Nickoe. I can't name all the secondary! The coaches are going to have their hands full trying to put everybody on the field, we have a lot of athletes back there. That's something we haven't had in the past, is the depth.

"I can remember when we played Arkansas here, I played 90-something plays that one game. But now that we've got Love and Calhoun and Slay is going to make our team just so much better. I'm going to be shocked, I'm not trying to brag, if we don't have the number-one secondary in the nation. Maybe the defense."

Which would only improve Banks' own NFL stock, too. Along that line he has been looking for every available edge, including talking to current and former Bulldog pros. Most notably another high-profile cornerback who knew something about setting a tone. Country boy Banks and city kid Fred Smoot have hit it off splendidly, the latter now something of an unofficial advisor.

"I talk to Fred a lot, we've got close and he helped me out with the whole draft process last year. Hearing him talk helps get me motivated, he gives me tips and stuff. He ain't going to sugar-coat nothing! If you're sorry he's going to tell you. If he tells you to work on something, he's going to let you know. I appreciate him for that, I can shoot him a text right now and he'll have something for me, some good information and motivation for me."

By the way, Banks says he doesn't need Smoot's legendary expertise in the art of trash-talking. "I do that on my own. You can ask guys on the team, I think I'm a pretty good smack-talker. I get to people."

But come next Wednesday Banks will have to keep his talk on a tighter leash and stick to the Mississippi State message at Media Days. For a few hours he will make the rounds of print, internet, radio, television, everything and everybody imaginable asking everything…some maybe not imaginable. Banks' only regret is he can't take talkative teammate and cornerback counterpart Corey Broomfield to the party.

"Well, I'm not sure how that happened. I thought Broom was actually going to be at Media Day. I think Broom would do alright, he's a pretty smart guy."

And a pretty sharp dresser as well, something that doesn't rank as high with Banks as most peers. In fact, SEC Media Days have become something of a fashion show for league athletes to show who can look the sharpest for the cameras and for each other. Here, Banks is willing to concede the competition.

"I ain't worried about how I look. I'm worried about come September 1 how we beat Jackson State."

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