Eleven years ago Brian Banks would not have any reason to doubt that he would one day be a starting linebacker for an NFL team. After being highly recruited out of high school, the Long Beach native had decided to take his talents to the nearby University of Southern California to play for the Trojans led by the idolized Coach Pete Carroll. At this point in time, Banks was looking at four years of college life in sunny Los Angeles playing linebacker for a national championship caliber football team before entering the NFL draft where he would have a successful professional football career barring any serious injury.
Wanetta Gibson had different plans for this football star. What Brian Banks thought was an innocent jaunt to the notorious Long Beach Polytechnic High School make-out spot with his classmate turned out to be enough evidence to falsely convict him of kidnap and rape.
Though his mother sold her car and house to be able to afford a lawyer for her innocent son, Banks was advised by his lawyer to accept a plea deal rather than select a jury due to the fact that he was a big, black teenager and the jury would most likely be all white. As a young 18-year-old, Banks was forced to make a decision in only ten minutes that would change his life.
After five years behind bars and five years on house arrest, Brian Banks was finally exonerated for the crime he did not commit. 11 years after the hope of a career in the NFL disappeared, 27-year-old Brian Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons.
Brian Banks’ inspiring return to football after being wrongfully accused of rape has become worldwide news. His story has been shared on talk shows, newscasts, and countless articles like this one. Banks has been more than willing to share his story to help the countless others who have yet to be exonerated for the crimes they did not commit. However, his focus now is finding redemption in making the Falcons’ final 53-man roster.
While there are no promises that Banks will make the final 53-man roster, the Falcons have been impressed by what they have seen at the rookie mini camp. Banks is competing for an inside line backer spot and was given the leadership role of running the defense at rookie minicamp in May.
While the 27-year-old linebacker who has been out of the game for 11 years has a lot of work to do, Banks’ passion rivals any other competitor. When asked in an interview with 11Alive News if he felt any sort of revenge for the cards life had dealt him, Banks said “the best revenge is success…football will be something that I will put my all into, I will make a 53-man roster…I’m going to play. Just like I said I would be signed by the NFL. Just like I said I would prove my innocence. Just like I said I would survive prison. Why stop now?”
The Falcons are lacking in depth at the linebacker position though they do have a strong core with Sean Witherspoon and Stephen Nicholas on the outside and Akeem Dent in the middle. Head Coach Mike Smith and the rest of the Falcons’ organization state that Brian Banks was not signed because of his inspirational story but rather because of the potential that he exhibited in his tryout and throughout rookie minicamp.
Banks progressed dramatically throughout rookie minicamp, OTAs, and veteran minicamp catching the eye of linebackers coach Glenn Pires. Banks knows he has to make up for lost time but he believes he is not as far behind as some may think. Banks says, “The mental side of things, getting all the plays, the checks, the motions — everything — it’s all starting to just make sense and click. That’s been my biggest thing is, once it clicks, watch out, because when it’s there, it’s over.”
Brian Banks is by far one of the most interesting players to watch when Falcons training camp begins on July 25th. Be on the lookout for more articles on his performance and if you want to learn more about Banks’ story and his efforts to help fellow exonerated men and women, check out Banks’ personal Facebook page here.
Now it is your turn. Do you think Brian Banks has what it takes to make the Atlanta Falcons final 53-man roster? Voice your thoughts in the comment section below!