When many people look at the Mississippi State secondary, they see Johnthan Banks.
The senior has stood out in the secondary and he was awarded the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation's best defensive back.
There is another senior cornerback for the Bulldogs who has more interceptions than Banks for the Bulldogs this season.
Darius Slay leads the team with five picks. He also has six breakups and 11 deflected passes.
"(It's about) playing my game, playing my technique and listening to the coach," Slay said. "A lot of people are scared of Banks, so they are going throw at me and test my skills. I proved that at the beginning of the season. I finished out strong."
Banks was honored on national television when he won the Thorpe Award. Slay looks at the award as something the entire secondary can take pride in.
"People don't need to overlook us," Slay said. "We have great talent. We have (Jamerson) Love and (Cedric) Jiles. We have all the great DBs here. It shows that we work hard."
Slay spent his first two college seasons at Itawamba Community College. From his first arrival on campus, Slay has learned a great deal from his partner across the way in Banks.
"I haven't been here all four years," Slay said. "The two years I have been here he has helped me, him and (Corey) Broomfield. They taught me the game better and it just kept me upbeat."
Slay has taken what he has learned from Banks and taught some of the younger defensive backs.
The Bulldogs will have a whole new look next year in the secondary. Young guys like freshman Jiles, sophomore Love, redshirt freshman Taveze Calhoun, and freshman Will Redmond will get their chance next season.
"I see Love, because he is the oldest one, becoming a leader," Slay said. "I see Jiles working hard. Calhoun is working hard. All of them are preparing for that starting position because we've got three seniors leaving. We need somebody to fill those spots."
The younger guys have used the most of their time with the older guys.
"It will help so much because they were so hard on us all year," Jiles said. "I think we will be really good next year. They taught us a lot and they were great people on and off the field."
The younger defensive backs did get their chance early in bowl practices. The older guys got a little bit of coaching experience.
"We just have to continue to improve and get better every day," Calhoun said. "A lot of times we are still learning as much as we can from John, Slay and Broomfield."
Slay and the other veteran defensive backs and helping the younger guys along, but they are not babying them.
"If you mess up and get beat deep, they are going to be on you down in the film room, on the field and everywhere," Jiles said. "They are going to be hard on you."
Slay has had two great years at Mississippi State and Tuesday it comes to an end on the football field.
The Bulldogs (8-4) play No. 21 (Associated Press) Northwestern (9-3) in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPN2.
"It means a lot," Slay said. "I will be representing this team for the last time, and I look forward to coming out with a victory."
Slay is hoping that is football career will not end after the bowl game.
"I am going to go to the draft," Slay said. "I am probably going to work out with (Matt) Balis and get better.
"It's all over the world. It's just a blessing to have a chance to go. I just thank God for that."
Slay's favorite defensive back in the NFL is Cleveland Brown Joe Haden. He may just be playing alongside of him soon.
"That was my dream," Slay said. "That's a kid's dream to go to the pros. I'm trying to make that dream come true."View more articles in: