It was a long ride home for the thousands of Mississippi State fans who believed prior to the 7:30 start of Saturday’s ballgame that the Bulldogs would be 8-0 and ranked in the top five in the nation after beating No. 1 Alabama.
It did not work out that way, but all was not a loss for state fans.
Reacting to MSU’s 7-0 start before Saturday and the Bulldogs’ ranking in the top 15 in the nation, ESPN featured Johnathan Banks, a Maben native who is starting to gain the same kind of attention that Fletcher Cox did for the Bulldogs before being taken as the No. 12 pick by the Philadelphia Eagles last Spring.
ESPN’s feature began, “He grew up in the small town of Maben, Miss., raised by his grandmother after his mother abandoned him and his father passed away. Knowing how much time he lost with his own father, Banks carves out special time each week to go horseback riding with his one-year old son, KJ. ESPN’s Samantha Steele reports on how Banks balances being a leader on the football field and a father.”
West Point natives Dana Smith and Jennifer and Rachel Rollison drove to Tuscaloosa to watch the Bulldogs and cover the game for the Daily Times Leader. They were half fans and half professionals.
When they pulled into their parking space at Bryant-Denny Stadium, they got quite a surprise from the vehicle next to them.
“After doing a little shopping, we decided to grab some appetizers before the game,” Smith said on Monday. “As we pulled into the parking lot, we parked beside a car with a Clay County tag that said “Banks” on the back.”
Smith and crew began to unload at the same time their next door neighbors did.
“It was KJ Banks (Johnanthan’s son), Mallory (KJ’s mother and Banks’ girlfriend), Mallory’s sister and their mother,” Smith said. “We enjoyed a great visit with them and KJ put on a show. He is an adorable young man.”
Banks talks in the feature about how he has matured as a man, taking responsibility for being a father as well as being a leader on his team.
Banks is certainly maturing as a senior cornerback for Mississippi State. Quickly becoming a fan favorite with four interceptions and one forced fumble and recovery, which gave the Bulldogs a big jolt against Tennessee.
This week, Banks was named one the 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the top defensive player in the nation. He is one of eight SEC players on the list of semifinalists, but he is the only representative from Mississippi on the list.
Banks was an All-American pre-season player who has tackled 37 players this year, two for losses.
Banks’ family proudly displays his No. 13 on the back of their SUV, and they will be there to watch him every chance they get during his senior season with the Bulldogs.
ESPN College GameDay’s piece on Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks will air during the 10 a.m. hour Saturday.