After spending over five years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Brian Banks finally got a much-deserved second chance today after signing with the Atlanta Falcons. The former blue chip recruit lost a scholarship to USC, and his seemingly bright future was forever altered by an inexplicable lie.
In 2002, a female classmate falsely accused a 17-year-old Banks of raping her on the Long Beach Polytechnic High School campus. With an additional kidnapping enhancement added to his charges, Banks faced a potential sentence of 40 years to life. The case went to trial and, following his attorney’s advice, Banks accepted a plea deal for six years.
Banks was released in 2007, after completing five years of the sentence. He then spent five years on parole. In an unbelievable twist, his accuser added him as a friend on Facebook four years after his release, seeking reconciliation. She subsequently met with him in person, while a private investigator hired by Banks surreptitiously recorded the encounter, and admitted to making the whole thing up. Finally exonerated, Banks went about the business of reigniting his dream of being an NFL player.
He received several one-day tryouts from sympathetic NFL teams, including former USC coach Pete Carroll, that didn’t pan out. He also joined the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives, weeks before the league imploded. Now, with the Falcons bringing the 27-year-old linebacker on, Banks has a real chance to pursue his dream of making an NFL roster.
Granted, he still has to make the Falcons’ 53-man roster, which isn’t guaranteed at this point (NFL teams are allowed to sign more players than they’re allowed to retain on their roster). His years away from the game may prove to be too large an obstacle to overcome. Even so, he now has something that seemed inconceivable eleven years ago: an opportunity.