Wrongly convicted of rape, Brian Banks finally realizes NFL dream with Falcons

A screen grab shows Brian Banks shortly after he was exonerated in 2011.

A screen grab shows Brian Banks shortly after he was exonerated in 2011.

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

Eleven years ago, then 16-year-old Brian Banks saw his dream of football stardom in college and the NFL end – cruelly – when he was wrongly convicted of rape.

Only his family and friends believed his vehement denial.

On Wednesday, a year after the courts finally and fully exonerated him, Banks signed an NFL contract with the Atlanta Falcons.

“I don’t expect any handouts or any favouritism,” Banks told reporters on a conference call. “I am here to work like everybody else. The result of my hard work will be whatever they deem necessary. All I can do is do my best and however it turns out, will be. I thank God for the opportunity.”

Perhaps you saw the 60 Minutes feature on Banks.

He was a star junior linebacker on his Long Beach, Calif., high school team who’d verbally committed to the University of Southern California. Then a fellow student accused him of rape.

Banks was convicted and spent five years in prison, then five more on parole with an ankle bracelet tracking his every move, ensuring he didn’t flee the state or come within 6 2/3 football fields of any school or park.



A California court overturned Banks’ conviction last May after his accuser recanted her story.

While the Falcons are the first NFL team to sign Banks, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers worked him out last spring. So did the Seattle Seahawks, coached by the same USC coach – Pete Carroll – who’d offered him a scholarship all those years ago.

Eleven years out of football, of course, is an enormous obstacle for Banks or anyone to overcome, no matter how physically gifted he might be.

The Falcons worked him out before the 2012 season, though, and general manager Thomas Dimitroff said in a statement Wednesday that the club had 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.”

The Falcons’ on-field workouts begin April 22, when Banks – a 6-foot-2, 250-pound inside linebacker – will join his new teammates.

Being signed to a team’s 90-man off-season roster is one thing. Making the final 53-man squad is another. It’s an extreme longshot.

Banks knows it, and won’t be crushed if he’s cut.

“I’ve already won,” Banks said. “The biggest thing for me was to have my freedom be given back to me. Everything else is just me trying to live the life that I once lost.”

More power to ya, Brian.


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