Atlanta Falcons linebacker Brian Banks can say he did it.
Banks was released by the Falcons today as NFL teams cut their roster down to 53-players by Saturday. He still has a chance to be signed by another NFL team. If Banks showed enough potential this preseason, one team, including the Falcons, could sign him to their practice squad. Being on a practice squad would give Banks at least a year to get back into football shape and compete for a roster spot next season.
No matter what happens, Banks fulfilled his dream to be on an NFL team.
“I’ve been fully consumed in making this team, trying to catch up on all these years I missed in football,” Banks told AJC.com last night after Atlanta's 20-16 loss against Jacksonville. “My learning curve was definitely different from a lot of guys here. I was learning a lot of one-on-on basic things in football, as well as the intermediate things in football and meshing it all together at once over a small period of time. It was definitely challenging but, overall, I enjoyed myself immensely.”
Banks was falsely accused of rape when he was a high school star, ruining his chances to play for University of Southern California. He went sent to prison for five years, then placed on probation for five years after his 2007 release. Banks had to register as a sex offender and could not live within 2,000 feet from any school or park. He also had to keep a GPS device around his ankle to ensure that he did not leave the state.
However, Banks was finally exonerated in May 2012 after his accuser contacted him on Facebook and recanted her story.
Instead of being bitter, Banks expressed his appreciation to teammates after Atlanta’s preseason finale last night:
Brian gave a speech last night to the team that had some vets on the verge of tears, about appreciating every second on that field
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 30, 2013
Glazer added that Falcons owner Arthur Blank was so impressed with Banks, they are trying to to place him in a career opportunity in Atlanta around the team.
We will never know what may have happened if Banks’ life had not been derailed years ago.
However, we do know Banks finally made it to the NFL, even if that journey ends today.
Here is what Banks posted on his Instagram account Thursday night as his mom attended her first NFL game:
"After 5 years in prison, 5 years missing her child, 10 years we struggle... Mom look at us NOW! Thank u God. You NEVER left us. Because we never left you. I've already won! No matter what , Mom we did it. We are free. #RISEUP"