Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Buccaneers rookie CB Banks inspired by toddler son
On the football field, Johnthan Banks prides himself on being an intense competitor.
But when the final gun sounds, the second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turns into an admitted softy.
“I love football, I love to compete and I play with a lot of emotion,'' said the 6-foot-2 cornerback from Mississippi State.
When Banks, 23, looks into the eyes of his toddler son, Keidan, he melts.
“It made me take responsibility,'' Banks said of his role as a young father. “We call him K.J. He'll be 2 in nine days. My football career could be over any second. My little boy means the world to me. I don't want him to ever want for nothing.
“I don't want him to ever have to suffer for anything. It really matured me a lot and made me work that much harder to provide a happy life for him.''
Banks, who married his high school sweetheart, Mallory, was raised in a rural Mississippi environment that tested him daily.
“I came from a pretty hard background,'' said Banks, who started 45 games and registered 16 interceptions for the Bulldogs. “My dad was killed in a car accident and I was raised by my grandparents. I was raised in the church. I always try to keep a smile on my face and I'm always willing to help others.
“Growing up, I didn't have a lot. I always said to myself that if I ever have a kid and a wife, I was always going to make their life as easy as possible so they wouldn't have to struggle like I did.''
After a standout prep career, playing quarterback and defensive back, Banks started seven games at free safety as a Bulldog freshman before being switched to corner.
“It helped me a lot playing in the box,'' said Banks, who is participating this weekend in Tampa Bay's rookie minicamp at One Buc Place. “When I moved to cornerback, I knew what our safety was doing. I think corner is the hardest position besides quarterback. It's really a guessing game. You don't know if he's going to run a post or a fade. He knows where he's going – but I don't.''
Banks figures to take a lot of that guesswork away by hanging around four-time Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis, acquired from the Jets in an April 21 trade.
“It's amazing because a day before I got picked by Tampa Bay, I said it's going to be crazy if I get to play with Revis,'' Banks said. “He's the best corner in football and I can learn a lot from this guy. I think I'm a really good football player, too. I can elevate my game being around a guy like him.''
Despite impressive credentials, Banks lasted until the 43rd pick in the draft. Some clubs may have been wary of his pedestrian time in the 40-yard dash.
“Everybody can look at my tape and tell I'm not a 4.6 guy,'' he said. “My tape don't lie. It speaks for itself. I played in the SEC four years. I played against (Tennessee wide receiver) Cordarrelle Patterson, who runs a 4.47, and he didn't really do anything against me.''
As a senior, Banks won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. Playing against quality opponents every week helped him grasp the No. 1 requirement of any successful corner.
A short memory.
“People are going to catch balls on you,'' he said. “This is the NFL. You've got guys like Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones … the best of the best. You're going to get beat, so all you can do is go on to the next one.''