January 7, 2013 9:38:19 AM
Matthew Stevens - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- At least three Mississippi State University football players have been invited to participate in the NFL draft Combine next month.
MSU cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay and defensive tackle Josh Boyd received their invitations to the league's official pre-draft scouting showcase Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis. In an event restricted to the media but televised by the NFL Network, hundreds of college players will go through speed, skill, and strength exercises. They also will be interviewed and take interviews by NFL scouts, coaches, and executives and take physicals during the week-long event.
Banks and Slay, considered by many analysts to be the best defensive back tandem in the country this season, announced their selection to the combine via Twitter messages to each other.
Banks, the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's top defensive back, is slated to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Many analysts consider the Maben native to be a mid to late first-round pick. ESPN will broadcast the first round on April 25.
Banks had 59 tackles, seven pass breakups, four interceptions, a fumble forced, and a fumble recovery. Among active players in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the senior co-captain is first in career interception yards (320), is tied for third with 16 interceptions, is tied for sixth in interceptions returned for touchdowns (three), and is tied for eighth with 26 pass breakups.
Banks. a former standout at East Webster High School in Maben, was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2011.
Slay was named to the Southeastern Conference Coaches' second team after tying for ninth in the country with five interceptions. The Brunswick, Ga., native had 37 tackles, six pass breakups, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick this season.
MSU junior offensive guard Gabe Jackson still hasn't announced whether he'll leave school a year early for the NFL draft or remain in Starkville for his senior season. The Outland Trophy nominee and All-SEC second-team selection likely will receive an invitation if he chooses to turn professional.
The complete NFL combine invitation list will be announced in early February.
As a national award winner and first-team All-American, Banks will be on the sidelines for tonight's Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game in Miami, Fla., between the University of Notre Dame and University of Alabama.
Boyd and wide receiver Chad Bumphis will play in the East-West Shrine Bowl on Jan. 19 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Linebacker Cameron Lawrence and safety Corey Broomfield will play in the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic on Jan. 19 at the Crampton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala.