February 3, 2018 10:27:57 PM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- This all started when Johnthan Banks still had playing football on his mind.
Banks was back in Starkville working out for the 2018 NFL season, sometimes with Starkville High School football players and coaches around, when Starkville coach Chris Jones half-heartedly mentioned the idea of coaching. Jones didn't put too much stock in the conversations because he and Banks talked about other interests, too, such as riding horses.
When Banks first discussed ending his five-year NFL career, the conversations changed. Jones returned to Banks with perfect timing -- Banks had just talked to his wife about starting a coaching career.
Banks will start that career at Starkville High.
The Maben native and former Mississippi State cornerback will coach Starkville High's cornerbacks in 2018, a move Jones hopes will give the Yellow Jackets an added edge after losing in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship game.
"We thought it would be great for the kids," Jones said. "Him being a local guy and him being relevant, I think the kids will listen to him and he knows a lot of stuff. He's going to be a hands-on type of guy, and I like those guys."
Banks, a three-star recruit out of East Webster High, played at MSU from 2009-2012. He finished his career with 221 tackles and 16 interceptions, which remains tied for the school record. His two interceptions returned for touchdowns in 2009 -- three for his career -- also are tied for the school record. His 320 interception return yards is the school record.
After his senior season in 2012, Banks received the Jim Thorpe Award as the top defensive back in college football. He also earned first-team All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Foundation, and Scout.com, as well as first-team All-Southeastern Conference accolades.
A second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013, Banks spent five years in the NFL with the Buccaneers, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Houston Texans. He had 142 tackles and seven interceptions -- all with Tampa Bay.
"This is not just any guy (who) played at the college level or played a little pro ball," Jones said. "He was a high pick. He was a top corner in the nation. We've got corners that look like him. We've got long, rangy guys, and I think he can help them get better and reach the next level.
"I think it's the fact that he's relevant. When he speaks, kids are going to listen. I think that's something that will be beneficial for him as a coach. When he speaks, it's kind of a goal. If he says it, he made it, so it must work."
Jones, who started his coaching career in similar fashion. After three seasons in the NFL, one in the Arena Football League, and two in the Canadian Football League, he went into coaching at Louisville High.
Jones joked he "didn't leave the game with as much money in my bank account as (Banks)," but he sees parallels between them. Jones had to adjust to players who might not be as dedicated to advancing in football as he was and he knows Banks will have to do the same. In his experience, the players who are serious about football tend to gravitate to coaches like himself and Banks.
After meeting with Banks and Starkville defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson, Jones and his coaches are excited.
"Somebody has to give someone a chance," Jones said. "Banks wants to do it, why not give him a chance? One day I might be calling him asking him to hire me. You never know."
Jones said Banks is in the process of acquiring his teaching certificate, but he will join the coaching staff even if he doesn't teach at the school.
"I think he's going to be a good coach one day," Jones said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson