Brian Banks, the former Long Beach Polytechnic High School football standout who spent five years in prison before his rape conviction was overturned, has finally earned a spot with an NFL team.
Banks, 27, has signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a linebacker, the team announced Wednesday on its website.
“We are pleased to have Brian join our team,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “We had a chance to work him out last year and have been monitoring his progress since then.
“He has worked extremely hard for this chance over the last year and he has shown us that he is prepared for this opportunity. We are happy that Brian will have a chance to live out his dream of playing in the NFL and we look forward to seeing him on the field.”
Early Wednesday, Banks tweeted, “I feel good this morning :-).” FOXsports.com reporter Jay Glazer quotes Banks as saying “Jay, I’m on Cloud 10, I passed Cloud 9.”
Banks’ true story sounds more like a movie script.
In 2002, a classmate accused Banks of rape. At the time, the 17-year-old linebacker was drawing attention from USC, UCLA and other schools, he said, even though he had just completed his junior year of high school.
He pleaded no contest to charges of kidnapping and rape, spent five years in prison and another five on parole.
But Banks met with his accuser in 2011 after the woman reached out to him on Facebook. She admitted she had lied about the alleged rape in a conversation that was taped by Banks and a private investigator, setting the wheels in motion for the exoneration.
Since then, his story has drawn national attention, and last year, he was invited to try out for multiple NFL teams. At one point, he attended mini-camp with the Seattle Seahawks. The team is coached by Pete Carroll, who was the head man at USC when Banks said he drew interest from the school. He left the team’s camp without a contract.
Wednesday’s news marks the biggest step in Banks’ road to redemption. According to the team statement, Banks checks in at 6-2 and 250 pounds, and spent the 2012 season with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League (UFL), where he appeared in two games and posted one tackle.
The details of Banks’ contract was not released by the team, but his signature does not assure that he will be playing on Sundays. Teams are allowed to sign more players in the off season than they can keep on their rosters. Banks will have to earn one of about 53 spots in the coming months.
[For the record, 5:24 p.m. April 3: An earlier version of this post said that Banks met with his accuser last year. The meeting took place in 2011.]