Brian Banks spent five years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, but now the once-promising football star will have a second chance at his dream of making the NFL.
Banks was signed by the Atlanta Falcons this week, giving the 27-year-old what he said is the second biggest moment in his life.
“Aside from getting my life back and my freedom back, this is the biggest accomplishment of my life,” Brian Banks told reporters during a conference call.
The Falcons front office said they were happy to take a chance on the 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker.
“We are pleased to have Brian join our team,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff. “We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then. He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, and we look forward to seeing him on the field.”
Banks said he gave up on his dreams of playing in the NFL as he wasted his days away in prison. He was forced to give up a scholarship to USC and watched his class go on to play collegiate football from behind bars.
“That was a completely different life of violence and being away from your family,” Banks said, adding, “Football was the last thing on my mind, and it wasn’t until a few months before I was actually being released from prison that I thought about possibly trying to play football again.”
Banks was accused of raping a high school classmate in 2002. Facing a long sentence at his trial, attorneys advised then 17-year-old Banks to plead no contest to the charges. He avoided a potential 40 years in prison and instead served a five-year sentence.
But Brian Banks maintained his innocence throughout, and in 2011 the woman who accused him of rape sent him a Facebook friend request. She later admitted that Banks did not kidnap or rape her, and agreed that they had a consensual encounter at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.
Brian Banks has spent months in intensive training, attending San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks minicamps last year. He now has another chance to fulfill his NFL dream with the Atlanta Falcons — ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas thinks Banks has a good chance to make the team as a backup.