Brian Banks, a man accused of rape ten years ago, was finally exonerated of a crime he never committed after spending five years of his life behind prison walls and having a once promising football career derailed in the process.
On Thursday, Banks walked out of a Long Beach, Ca. courthouse with his parents Leomia and Jonathan— after having his rape conviction dismissed— and took in a breath of freedom before tearfully promising to pursue his dream of playing pro football.
"This is the first step in reinventing my life," he said after a judge issued the ruling.
Banks— wearing a sweatshirt with the word "innocent" on it— stood on the courtroom steps as his advisor Justin Brooks addressed the media, "I have a message to any NFL executives out there. . . give this guy a shot."
At 16 years old, Banks had his eye on a career in the NFL. He was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic— one of the premier California high school football teams— and had already verbally agreed to a full scholarship at USC after being courted by almost every top program in the country.
The came a childhood friend's false accusation of rape in 2002— a claim she has now recanted.
Gil Brandt, an NFL draft consultant, said Banks would be eligible to sign with any team that might show interest. However, the years away from the playing field will be his biggest obstacle.
"History tells us guys who come back after one or two years in the service find it awfully hard," he said. "and this has been a much longer time."
Banks, who always dreamed about playing for the San Diego Chargers, says he is ready for the challenge.
"It's been a struggle. But I'm unbroken and I'm still here today."
The tall, muscular Banks is 26 now— only one year shy of the NFL average age. And although he has been working out six days a week, he did miss out on four years of experience at USC while sitting in a jail cell— years so costly to a young NFL hopeful.
While Banks' chances for an NFL career are slim, there is no reason an NFL team couldn't give him a shot. And via his "Pursuit of the NFL" video blog, you can watch his progression every step of the way.
According to LA Weekly, Bill Johnston, director of public relations for the San Diego Chargers said, "There's no interest at this time" about giving Banks a tryout. "No one here had even heard of him until this story came out today."
Still, it doesn't sound like Banks will be easily deterred from achieving his NFL goal.
"I feel like anything is possible," he said. "And it's proven today by me getting my freedom back."