TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — When Johnthan Banks learned Tampa Bay had acquired the top cornerback in football in the days leading up to the NFL draft, he figured there was no way he’d wind up being selected by the Buccaneers.
Much to the former Mississippi State star’s delight, he’s going to get a chance to learn from Darrell Revis as part of the Bucs’ effort to rebuild the worst pass defense in the league.
“It’s a dream come true,” 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner said by telephone Friday after landing with Tampa Bay on the 11th pick of the second round, No. 43 overall. “I can’t wait to get there.”
The Bucs did not have a pick in Thursday’s opening round after trading the 13th overall pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Revis, a three-time All-Pro who’s the centerpiece of what general manager Mark Dominik and coach Greg Schiano last weekend are doing to shore up a secondary that came within 38 yards of setting a NFL record for passing yards allowed last season.
In addition to obtaining Revis and drafting Banks, who had 16 career interceptions in college, the Bucs added All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson to their defensive backfield through free agency in March.
“We’ve improved our size, physicality and ball skills,” Dominik said of the collective moves this offseason.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks was a captain at Mississippi State, where he tied the school record for interceptions and routinely was assigned to cover opponents’ No. 1 receiver.
“He was the guy who made their defense go, period,” Schiano said. “He’s a strong, rangy guy. … We’re happy to have him.”
Despite not having a first-round pick for the first time in 10 years, Dominik entered Friday night feeling the Bucs had done more to help the team by acquiring Revis than they could ever have hoped to by holding onto the 13th pick of the first round and using it try to upgrade a defense that contributed to a late-season collapse in 2012.
The Bucs lost five of six down the stretch to finish 7-9.
Revis is a proven star who’s generally regarded as the game’s best player at his position. The Bucs signed him to a new six-year, $96 million contract and are counting on the seventh-year pro to be a mentor for Banks, who despite winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back wasn’t the first player from his college secondary selected in the draft.
Mississippi State cornerback Darius Slay was taken earlier in the second round, No. 36 overall, by the Detroit Lions.
But Banks wasn’t complaining.
Tampa Bay had been one of his preferred destinations since spending time with members of coaching staff and scouting departments at the Senior Bowl in January.
“It’s a blessing I got drafted. There are a lot of kids still sitting home waiting and hoping to be picked,” the 23-year-old native of Maben, Miss., said.
“God works in mysterious ways. … Revis is the best and I get a chance to play next to him. I’m going to try to learn everything I can from him,” Banks added. “I play with passion. I give it everything I’ve got. … That’s what I’m coming there to do.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.