January 3, 2012 5:30:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State junior defensive back Johnthan Banks has decided to return to the Bulldogs program for his final year of eligibility instead of declaring for the National Football League Draft.
The former East Webster High School star from Maben was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back.
"I feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders by making this announcement," Banks said via a university statement. "I'm coming back to Mississippi State to continue my development as a player and a person. I've always wanted to play football here and I love the university, my coaches and teammates."
NFL Draft analyst Tony Pauline of SI.com reported Tuesday Banks received a fourth-round draft grade.
Banks has 12 career interceptions, tied for sixth nationally among active players and his three interception returns for touchdowns is tied for the national lead. He tied for second in the Southeastern Conference with 14 passes defended this year.
"I would love to play football for as long as I can, and my career goal of becoming a State Highway patrolman following my football career will be helped by getting my degree before I leave," Banks stated.
MSU football Dan Mullen, who has been an advocate of players returning to school if they aren't projected as a first round selection, released a statement with obvious approval of the decision.
"I'm extremely proud of John for going through this process, gathering all the information and making an informed decision," Mullen said.
Earlier in the day, Mississippi State junior defensive tackle Fletcher Cox has decided to forego his final year of eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft. Here's the blog post on that news here - bit.ly/tJaK5D -
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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