Mississippi State DB Johnthan Banks Wins 2012 Jim Thorpe Award

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2012

Oct 6, 2012; Lexington, KY, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Johnthan Banks (13) during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Credit: Mark Zerof-US PRESSWIRE

Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State has won the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation's top collegiate defensive back.

Mississippi State beat writer Brandon Marcello shared the news via Twitter:

Mississippi State CB Johnthan Banks (@jbanks_13) wins the Thorpe Award. First in school history.

— Brandon Marcello (@bmarcello) December 7, 2012

Even though the Bulldogs' defense struggled down the stretch against elite competition, Banks continued to shine. He finished the regular season with 59 tackles and four interceptions despite opponents shying away from him late in the year.

He joins a winners list that includes plenty of big names. Among them are Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson. Banks also brings an end to a two-year run for LSU, which had Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne win the award the last two seasons.

The senior cornerback didn't receive the attention he deserved during the regular season, which isn't a surprise given the number of defensive stars in the SEC. Since he was playing for a mid-tier Bulldogs team, it was easy to miss his strong play.

While Banks has showed off his big-play ability often over the past four seasons, he has really improved as a pure cover corner over the past two years. That's what really helped vault him to an elite level, making the award possible.

He beat out Alabama's Dee Milliner and Fresno State's Phillip Thomas, who were the other finalists as voted by the Jim Thorpe Association.

Now Banks will turn his attention toward the NFL. He's currently projected to go late in the first round, but will have a chance to rise quickly with strong pre-draft workouts. There are no shortage of teams looking for secondary help.

He possesses all the skills necessary to excel at the next level. It just comes down to refining his cover ability as he began to do during his senior season with the Bulldogs.

Winning the Jim Thorpe Award will also help him attract a little extra attention. Every little bit helps for players getting ready to make the jump.

If you missed Banks' strong play at Mississippi State, he's definitely a player to keep an eye on moving forward.