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Banks wants Bulldogs to go out playing hard

December 31, 2012

Mississippi State football coach Dan Mullen gives Johnthan Banks (13) a hug during Senior Day ceremonies at Davis Wade Stadium. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

What a year!

For Mississippi State senior Johnthan Banks, 2012 was one of the best years to date, but it was a season that almost did not happen.

As last year wound down, the defensive back weighed his options and at the last moment decided to return for his senior season.

It is a choice the senior does not regret.

“I think it was a great decision,” Banks said. “I came back and made myself a better player. I got to be around my teammates and my family one more year and just got to be a kid for one more year. I know the next step is all business and it’s like a grown man’s world.

“It’s been fun. I won the Thorpe, tied the interception record and looking to go out with a Gator Bowl win.”

Banks is not the only one looking to go out with a Gator Bowl win. The entire senior class is planning to leave a legacy as they play in the maroon and white for the last time.

“(Coach Dan Mullen) just wants us to finish hard, play hard, be physical, to do it for ourselves, our family and our fan base,” Banks said. “That is one thing we want to do. (We want to) go out known as one of the best senior classes in Mississippi State history. We went to back-to-back bowl games. We are just trying to be one of the winningest programs in school history.”

As the team sets its sights on the win, one thing has been slightly different for Banks.

With the exit of Melvin Smith, Tony Hughes has taken over coaching to secondary as the team prepares to face Northwestern.

“It’s been great with coach Hughes,” Banks said. “I played with him as a freshman. I’ve probably had the best week of practice since I’ve been at Mississippi State. Coach Mullen is a grind hard, get after it coach and coach Hughes is the same way.”

While the person calling the plays might be different, the personnel executing them will be the same.

For Banks knowing a “phenomenal athlete” like Darius Slay will be there as “a counterpart… that can hold it down just as well as (he) can” is comforting.

Joining Banks and Slay will be junior Nickoe Whitley, who Banks calls a “beast” and is looking forward to passing the torch to as he prepares to leave MSU.

“(Whitley) is a really good football player and athlete,” Banks said. “His focus has been the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here this week. He’s practiced hard. He’s had fun. Hopefully, it will carry over onto the field for us.

“I’ve talked to him a couple of times about he is going to have to take over this team and the secondary and he is going to have to be the guy next year.”

Looking forward, Banks is excited about the impact his team and the coaching staff have made.

“This program is going up and it’s going to continue to grow,” Banks said. “We have a great coach in coach Mullen, a good staff and they are doing a wonderful job recruiting and getting involved with the players’ lives. Everything he has done for our program is only helping.

“It’s great to know that I helped build this program up and it makes you feel good. It’s something that when my little boy grows up, I can tell him I helped build and my senior class was one of the best senior classes at Mississippi State.”

Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. today., and as Banks laces up, he will be thinking about how great it will be “to just get a win and end (his) career at Mississippi State and go out the right way.”

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