OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Johnthan Banks always appreciated that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen offered an opportunity to a scrawny, 150-pound kid from a small town and a hard-to-find school. He certainly is making the most of it.
Banks was presented the Thorpe Award on Tuesday as college football's best defensive back. He finished last season with four interceptions, running his career total to 16 to tie the school record at Mississippi State.
"This was one of my biggest goals. I never put the Heisman on there. I only put the Thorpe, so it's an honor and a blessing to be the recipient," Banks said.
Banks grew up in tiny Maben, Miss., and said his high school doesn't even show up when plugged in on a GPS device. Still, Mullen made his way there soon after being hired as the Bulldogs' head coach in December 2008. No other team offered Banks a scholarship, but he says he would not have gone anywhere else anyway.
Banks was raised largely by his grandparents, and dealt with the death of his father and then his grandfather while growing up. He says he got discovered playing basketball, and that eventually led to him getting a football scholarship.
"He's a great story of a young man who has every right not to be where he is today but never let anything get in his way," Mullen said. "To accomplish what he's done — whether it be playing from a 1A school to playing in the Southeastern Conference, whether it be getting a college degree or becoming the top (defensive back) in the nation, it's pretty special."