Brian Banks, who is fighting for a job with the Atlanta Falcons, said his debut in a preaseason game on Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals "was better than any roller-coaster ride you can ever get on."
Banks, a 28-year-old from Long Beach Poly High, should know about roller-coaster rides. He was a rising gridiron star before he was falsely accused of rape when he was 16, eventually being convicted and imprisoned for five years. He was released last year when his conviction was overturned after his accuser recanted her story.
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker had a tryout last year with the Seattle Seahawks and Coach Pete Carroll, who had recruited Banks to USC when he was in high school, but that didn't lead to a roster spot. The Falcons took notice and invited him to camp this summer after a minicamp tryout.
Banks marveled at the moment.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Banks said. "I wasn't overly excited or anything, but just running out of that tunnel, I mean, the adrenaline that comes with that is just indescribable.
"It was out of control. Just running out there, the flames, the cheers and the crowd, it was emotional, it really was."
Banks said veteran players did all they could to prepare him for the moment. He finished with two tackles in the 34-10 loss.
"To hear all the veterans tell you, 'Man, when your turn comes, when they call your number, just play,' " Banks said. "Just the support and love from everybody is more than I can ask for."