The Buccaneers went into the 2013 offseason with the main focus to rebuild the NFL's worst secondary. Tampa Bay added Dashon Goldson and Darrelle Revis prior to the draft, then with their first draft pick last month added CB Johnthan Banks. With the influx of talent, Tampa Bay may have turned a weakness into a major strength.
Since the arrival of head coach Greg Schiano in January of 2012 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have put an emphasis on bringing in players that have leadership capabilities. Several, like 2012 first round picks running back Doug Martin and safety Mark Barron, were captains of their college football teams, and in the 2013 draft that pattern continued with second-round selection cornerback Johnthan Banks.
While the Bucs liked the leadership that Banks provided during his four seasons at Mississippi State, Banks also possesses a maturity that Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik loved.
"A couple of things that are very intriguing to us as an organization is, obvious (Banks was) a captain of his football team,” Dominik said recently. “He’s a very mature young 23-year old, married with a little one. The Jim Thorpe winner and he played in one of the toughest leagues, the SEC, as a starter for more than 45 games.
“And he would take the No. 1 guy off every team and that’s a tough call, a tough road to hoe for a corner in the SEC. So we are obviously excited about not only with his skill set and his ability, but also with what he brings on and off the football field. He’s known as a great community guy as well and we’re really excited to bring him to our organization.”
Banks road to maturity started early as the East Webster High product suffered a difficult childhood.
“I come from a pretty hard background,” Banks said. “My dad was killed in a car accident and I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother, she raised me in the church, I’m a Christian guy. I’m laid back; always try to keep a smile on my face. I always want to help others. God is number one in my life.”
Despite at one time thought to possibly be the second ranked corner in this season’s draft, then falling to the second round because of an unimpressive 40-time at the combine, Banks says that’s ok with him.
“(I’m) not at all [disappointed about going in the second round],” Banks said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to play. From the end of my junior season I wanted to play for Tampa. All the coaches were super nice to me at the combine. I’m just really ready to get out there and go to work.
“I feel like I’m a first round pick because I was the top pick here. All the fans have showed me a lot of love on Twitter and Facebook. I’m just happy to be here.”
One reason Banks is so excited about playing in Tampa is the opportunity to line up on the field with one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
“It’s amazing [to be able to play with Darrelle Revis],” Banks said. “The day before I got picked by Tampa Bay I said, ‘It’s going to be crazy if I get to play with Revis.’ He’s the best corner in football. A young guy like me, who can learn a lot from this guy, and I think I’m a really good football player too. I could just elevate my game getting with a guy like Revis. I’ll talk to him and try to learn what he knows.”
As mentioned earlier, Banks saw his stock drop after an average 40-time (4.61) at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis and also his Pro Day. But Banks, like the Buccaneers, don’t see that as an issue.
“My forty time, everybody can look at my tape,” Banks said. “My tape doesn’t lie, it speaks for itself. I think I have really good tape, I think I have really good game speed. I was in the SEC for four years. I played with Cordarelle Patterson, he had a 4.47 and he didn’t really do anything against me.
“I use my height to my advantage. I’m bigger and taller than most receivers. So I use my size to my advantage.”
Dominik also has no concerns over Banks’ speed.
“He ran a 4.55 at his pro day, but the one thing that was important for us as an organization as we watched him and the coaches watched him and the scouts watched him, is you never felt that – because he has such good instincts, such good length and such good ball skills – that you never felt that you were concerned about the deep speed," Dominik said. "Because you love the length of the player and the ball skills and when he had to push and shove and run to get into position. He did a great job of that.”
Banks doesn’t play with the proverbial “chip on his shoulder” but instead uses other factors to motivate him to excel.
“I have my son; I have a wife who means a lot to me,” Banks said. “They are very special. I’m just trying to enjoy life and live right. [My wife and son] motivate me. I always said if I ever had a kid and a wife I was going to make their life as easy as possible so they don’t have to struggle like I did.
“[Being a father] has made me take responsibility. I don’t want [my son] to ever have to suffer or anything. It really matured me a lot to take responsibility and to work that much harder to provide.”
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