Johnthan Banks put family before NFL riches

Jim Thorpe Award winner from Mississippi State came back for his senior season, saw his draft stock rise and was honored as the nation's top defensive back.
by Jason Kersey Published: February 5, 2013

Mindful of his family, Johnthan Banks told his then-girlfriend over a year ago that he was skipping his senior season at Mississippi State and entering the NFL Draft.

“He said, ‘I'm gonna make a better living for you and my son,'” Mallory Banks said Tuesday, when her now-husband accepted the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award as college football's best defensive back.

Only days later, though, Johnthan Banks changed his mind. Several factors played into that decision. More than anything, though, he decided NFL riches would feel empty without Mallory and their son K.J., then only eight months old, nearby.

“My son is a daddy's boy,” Johnthan Banks said. “It's hard for me not being around him. The way I feel about him, and the way he feels about me is unreal.

“I never thought I could care about someone as much as I care about him.”

Johnthan Banks was honored as latest Jim Thorpe winner at a Tuesday banquet at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. He became the award's fourth consecutive winner from the Southeastern Conference.

Banks was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. He finished last season with 63 tackles, four interceptions and seven breakups.

He nearly gave up his senior season, though, because of the responsibility he felt to provide for his young family. He was reportedly projected as a fourth-round pick after his junior season.

After Johnthan Banks told Mallory of his initial decision, she noticed he'd become increasingly somber and distant.

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