Brian Banks–arrested, falsely accused and convicted of rape as a teenager in 2002, released in 2007– in 2013 at the age of 27, is on the verge of making his dream of playing in the National Football League a reality.

Banks was one of the top linebackers in the nation at age 17. He had committed to attend the University of Southern California (USC) after receiving numerous offers form other Division I schools. Then his life changed in a way he never thought imaginable.

“Football was the last thing on 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 told reporters June 5.

His statement came as he completed the latest in a series of workouts that so impressed the Atlanta Falcons that team officials talked publicly about the chances that Banks is likely to play, and possibly even start, in the NFL in the coming season.

Banks was accused of kidnapping and raping a girl who, at the time, was a friend. After waiting a year for a trail and with no clear DNA evidence, he pleaded no contest in order to avoid a possible 41-year sentence.

As a result, he spent five years in prison and another five on probation. Forced to register as a sex offender, he could not live within 2,000 feet from any school or park, and had to keep a GPS device around his ankle to ensure that he did not leave the state.

Then one day he received a friend request on Facebook from Wanetta Gibson, the woman who put him in jail. “She was hoping that we could allow bygones to be bygones,” Banks told CBS’s “60 Minutes.”

Banks had a private detective who recorded Gibson saying, “No, he did not rape me.” Now Banks wasted 10 years of his life over a false claim. Consequently, Banks is not mad or even thinks about Gibson.

After all hope seemed lost, Banks decided to try football again. He got numerous invitations from NFL teams before the 2012-2013 season started, but did not get a spot on a roster. The Atlanta Falcons had him work out, but did not feel the timing was right. Now eight moths later, they are giving Banks a shot by signing him for now at a time when the team needs linebackers.

Now he has to show, not only to the Falcons but also to himself, that this is what he really wants. He beats the odds before; let’s see if he can do it again.


Courtney Jacobs

AFRO Staff Writer