Mississippi State senior defensive back Johnthan Banks received much deserved praise entering the season.
His pursuit of the MSU career interception record while being one of the top cornerbacks in all of college football simply made the spotlight brighter.
Little did the opposition know that the Bulldogs have a guy who would line up opposite of Banks and steal the show through the first four weeks of the season.
Darius Slay has four interceptions to his credit this season, which stands second in college football, and despite his successes, Slay refuses to let that go to his head.
“It is a blessing," said Slay, who has picked off five passes in 17 games at MSU. "I’m not looking for too much attention. I want to win, so that’s what my goal is. (I want) to go out there a beat the person across from me.”
Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen is quick to point out Slay has outstanding talent, but it is his work ethic that’s allowed the Georgia native to excel.
“What he saw from day one up until now (that) being surrounded by good players has taught him to have a great work ethic, be able to take his talent and then learn the skill he needed to learn once he got here,” Mullen said.
Slay’s path to Mississippi State included a detour to Itawamba Community College. While that wasn’t the ideal path, it was expected by Mullen and the MSU staff.
“When we signed Darius, we knew he was not going to qualify," Mullen said. "It was a real long shot for him. It was almost the fact that when we signed him, he was definitely going to junior college, so we knew he’d have to go down that route.
“We knew he was an athlete. I wasn’t sure, very much like Banks, whether they would be corners or safeties. We just knew they were very, very athletic back there. Once we got him here on campus, you saw his athleticism and his ability to play corner, which is where we always start with. If you can play corner, go to corner.”
This week the Bulldog secondary will once again be tested by a passing attack from the Kentucky Wildcats, but that doesn’t scare Slay.
“It’s going to be hard to throw on (us) just because we’ve got four of the best secondary guys in the nation,” Slay said.
The fact that Kentucky will throw a couple of freshmen into the fire this week doesn’t hurt his feelings either.
“You know every body is going to attack the freshmen," Slay said. "We’ve got a bunch of older guys, so I know coach is going to come up with a package to confuse them. It is going to be hard because we don’t have any film on them, but we are going to find a way to come up with some film.”
The approach will be no unlike the Auburn game plan where MSU harassed Keihl Frazer all afternoon.
“That’s the same thing we did against Keihl Frazier," Slay said. "We pressured him, forced him to make some mistakes and our defense was able to make some big plays, so I guess that’s our goal against Kentucky.”
The Bulldogs and the Wildcats take the field Saturday with kickoff set for 11:21 a.m.