Mississippi State All-American Johnthan Banks is in Orlando, Fla., for the 2012 ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The senior team captain is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nations' top defensive back.
Follow this blog Wednesday and Thursday for updates, video and pictures of his time in the Sunshine State, where he will return Jan. 1 to finish out his outstanding career against Northwestern in the 2013 Gator Bowl. Follow MSU football's twitter account at @MStateFB for live updates.
ESPN's TV Coverage of College Football Awards Show For Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 (All Times Central)
4:30-5:30 p.m. - Palmer & Pollack Show on ESPNU
5:30-6:30 p.m. - ESPNU Red Carpet Show on ESPNU
6:30-8:30 p.m. - College Football Awards Show LIVE on ESPN
8:30-9 p.m. - Red Carpet Post Show on ESPNU
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012
3:45 p.m. CT Update
After catching up on his sleep, it was time for Johnthan to appear on ESPNU's CFB Daily. The corner jumped in a golf cart with fellow Thorpe finalist Phillip Thomas of Fresno State as well as USC wide receiver Marqise Lee, and off to the set they went.
In a place called "The Attic," the three superstars were stationed in a holding area upstairs overlooking the set on the boardwalk. Chilling on some couches provided by ESPN, the two California-based players quizzed Banks on if the SEC really was as good as people say it is.
"It's a beast," Banks explained, going into detail about how in a three-week stretch he had to go up against the number one team in the country (Alabama), the predicted Heisman winner (Johnny Manziel) and then play at night on the road at Death Valley (LSU).
Ironically enough, after then breaking down the ability of Alabama's two running backs for his newly-formed west coast friends (Tanks, Walls, Big), the Crimson Tide's Barrett Jones walked in and said hello again to Banks and the crew. The talented foursome began discussing bowl cities, and more importantly, bowl opponents.
"That Northwestern quarterback can run his tail off," Lee told Banks. "He is quick."
Moments after, a producer in a headset grabbed Banks, Thomas and Lee and escorted them down a stairwell and around a building to an area that will look familiar come 5:30 p.m. CT: the red carpet.
Walking down the red carpet for the first time on the way to the set, fans from all over the country lined the velvet ropes hoping to get a glimpse of the future NFL players. Banks smiled, waved and continued to make new friends as they were led on stage for the live taping of CFB Daily. There, on-air personality Dari Nowkhah met the players and chatted them up before they went live.
Once on the air, Banks was asked about the Thorpe Award, going up against Lee down the road in the NFL and the Bulldogs playing in their third-consecutive bowl game. Once finished, Banks and Thomas discussed dinner plans before the awards show and once again hopped in the golf cart for the return to their living quarters.
9 a.m. CT Update
We are less than 12 hours from the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards show, where All-American Johnthan Banks will attempt to become the first player in school history to win an individual national award.
To start the day off, Banks joined fellow finalists Dee Milliner of Alabama and Phillip Thomas of Fresno State for a breakfast hosted by the Jim Thorpe Association.
Breakfast was served, as Thorpe Association Executive Director Eddie Griffin talked about the character each men possess and the fact that despite tonight's results, all three are winners.
"Character counts. This award is really 51 percent character and 49 percent on-field excellence." - Jim Thorpe Association Director Mike James
James, who went into great detail about the amount of research that is done into each candidate's character, also talked about a young boy named Billy. Billy is the son of Ted, who has worked security for the Thorpe Association in Orlando. Over the years, Billy has become part of the Thorpe family, but recently, Billy was diagnosed with Leukemia. While Billy couldn't make it due to a cold, Ted received the Jim Thorpe Courage Award on his behalf.
Following the tear-jerking presentation, the finalists then introduced themselves to the breakfast audience. Banks was the first to speak, expressing great love and admiration for his son as well as horseback riding. Milliner also mention his hobby was horseback riding, but Phillip Thomas, who was born and raised in Bakersfield, Calif., said he has never rode a horse but would like to try one day.
Not surprisingly, all three men mentioned their own interception returns for touchdowns when asked about their favorite plays ever. For Banks, it was the 100-yard pick six in 2009 against Florida's Tim Tebow at Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville.
After memorable moments were exchanged, the Thorpe Association introduced to the honorable Bill Anoatubby, governor of the Chickasaw Nation. Governor Anoatubby spoke on the rich tradition of the Chickasaw Nation and Jim Thorpe's Native American heritage. Following the speech, he presented three finalists with gift baskets.
Getting a taste of the red carpet later tonight, the three finalists take photos with each other, their families and member of the Jim Thorpe Association. The breakfast ends with Banks and his two other semifinalists signing footballs, 8x10s and award show programs for young Billy.
Johnthan Banks is off to enjoy Disney with his family and will appear next LIVE on ESPNU at 2:15 p.m. CT.
Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012
8:30 p.m. CT Update
As the sun sets, familiar names in college football enter the ESPN Club on the boardwalk: Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, Desmond Howard, etc... Johnthan Banks, wearing his maroon Mississippi State polo shirt, strolls in with the past, present and future stars of college football. Every year, the night before the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show, all finalists, guests and college football personalities gather for a dinner, reception and competition at the ESPN Club.
The first thing Banks does when entering is finds the representatives from the Jim Thorpe Association. Those representatives include legendary football coach Barry Switzer and the honorable Bill Anoatubby, the governor of the Chickasaw Nation.
After dining with Thorpe reps, Banks must feed his competitive hunger, so he turns to Alabama's Dee Milliner and challenges him to a game of NCAA '13 on Xbox. The two sit down, and as one would expect from two Thorpe finalists, it's a defensive struggle. Scoreless with a minute left in the game, Milliner gets the ball to the five-yard line. Banks, as he typically does, breaks up a pass in the end zone to prevent a touchdown. Milliner kicks a field goal, giving Banks one shot with a minute left. Banks tries to dink and dunk down the field, but Milliner shows why he is also a Thorpe finalist, picking off a pass to seal the game.
The two shake hands like gentlemen and are joined for a photo op by other finalist Phillip Thomas from Fresno State, as well as Jim Thorpe Association Director Mike James. Following a quick picture, ESPN College Gameday host Chris Fowler walks up and congratulates Banks on the honor and his terrific senior season. Fowler is a long list of football media types that heaped words of praise on Banks since he arrived almost six hours prior.
As Banks returns to his room for the night, Milliner stops him on the way out and says, "Why are you leaving so early?
Banks quickly turns around and quips, "I have been up since 5 a.m. because our strength coach (Matt Balis) worked us out. I'm tired."
Milliner shakes his head in disbelief and walks away, as Banks continues to grind for his State.
5:30 p.m. CT Update
Standing in a hallway filled with All-Americans and waiting to enter the media room, Johnthan Banks sees a familiar face Alabama's Dee Milliner. Despite being opponents on the gridiron and for the Thorpe Award, Banks and Milliner are actually close friends. The two corners embrace and talk about life, football and family.
Johnny "Football" Manziel enters the hallway, and immediately approached Banks to say hello. Banks leans in and says, "Congrats on the Heisman," as both men laugh. As a group, which also consisted of the Aggies' Luke Joeckel, UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and Florida special teamers Kyle Christy and Caleb Sturgis, are led into the media room.
There, Banks fields questions from MSU's appearance in the Gator Bowl to which player he would vote for the Heisman Trophy. Finger foods are grubbed down, good lucks for tomorrow's awards show are exchanged and the mood is light.
Yahoo Sports' Eric Adelson, who wrote this compelling feature on Banks, comes over to ask about Banks' son K.J., as well as John's horses. Eric's wife Andrea, follows up with a video interview you can watch later at ESPN.com
3 p.m. CT Update
Guess which one of these things Johnthan Banks never done?
1) Flown commercially out of his hometown airport (Golden Triangle Regional).
2) Rode the subway for the first time ever.
3) Traveled to Orlando.
If you guessed all three, you guessed correctly.
1) Banks had only flown from GTR on the team plane to play an away game. He flew on the same play as men's basketball coach Rick Ray, who was headed to Louisiana to recruit.
2) He took the subway system in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to catch his connecting flight. Atlanta is subsequently the largest city Banks has ever been to.
3) A long ways from his hometown of Maben, Miss., Banks is in Orlando for the first time thanks to being a Jim Thorpe finalist.
Upon arriving in "O-Town," Banks was greeted by a member of ESPN security and an Orlando police officer, who personally escorted him to the baggage area. It didn't take more than a minute for an army of autograph collectors to swarm the corner, attempting to acquire a worthy collectible. Finally, in secret-service style, Banks hopped in an unmarked van and was whisked away to the Walt Disney World Boardwalk Hotel & Resort.
In the van, Banks casually struck up a conversation with 1992 Outland Trophy winner Will Shields, who is in town to present the trophy to this year's recipient. Shields, a mountain of a man who was a 12-time Pro Bowler in 14 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League, gave Banks tremendous insight into the NFL Draft process and the fiscal responsibility that came with it.
So what was the most notable advice Banks received from the 2012 NFL Hall of Fame finalist?
"Surround yourself with people you trust."
Following his arrival at the resort and hotel, Banks hopped out of the van and immediately heard someone shout "Long time no see!"
Turning around, the senior leader for the Maroon and White saw the smile of ESPN on-air personality Samantha Steele. The two chatted briefly about the award show, the Thorpe Award and the Oct. 27 feature on ESPN College Gameday that Steele interviewed Banks for.