A former California high school football phenom, who served more than five years in prison after a wrongful conviction for rape, has achieved his NFL dream.
Brian Banks, 27, signed a contract with the Atlanta Falcons on Wednesday, more than 10 years removed from a rape accusation and conviction that nullified his scholarship to the University of Southern California.
The Falcons will be using Banks as an inside linebacker. Fox Sports reporter Jay Glazer announced the signing on Twitter.
When he was 16 years old, Banks was receiving national acclaim for his play at Long Beach Poly High School. In a comprehensive profile by ESPN’s Rick Reilly, Banks was accused of rape by a classmate, and his attorney at the time told him to plead guilty to avoid a possible sentence of 40 years in prison.
Banks served 62 months in jail, and was let out on probation for another five years with a GPS tracker attached to his ankle. He also had to register as a sex offender.
After his release, his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, sent Banks a friend request on Facebook. The two met up after Banks weighed his options.
He hired a private investigator, and asked Gibson to meet him at the investigator’s office. It was during that meeting Gibson admitted Banks did not rape her.
A year later, Banks’s conviction was overturned.
Pete Carroll, now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, originally signed Banks to play for USC, and gave him an opportunity to try out with the Seahawks. Reilly also reported that the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins also offered Banks a try out.
Banks, who is 6'1 and weighs 240 pounds, did not make those teams, but eventually caught on with the UFL’s Las Vegas Loco’s last season. While in Las Vegas, Banks remained on NFL teams' radars.
Banks posted the moment of him signing his first NFL contract on Instragram, and also took to Twitter, thanking Falcons' team officials for the opportunity 10 years in the making.
“Thank you #AtlantaFalcons, Arthur Blank, Thomas DiMitroff, Mike Smith. You gave a great man his life back!!!! So proud today”