Man Serves 5 Years for Rape, Clears His Own Name, Lives out Deferred NFL Dream

Back in 2002, Brian Banks was a star on Polytechnic High School’s football team in Long Beach, California. He was a Junior standout who had verbally committed to USC for the fall of 2004.

This photo is from well before that time:

But, those who know where this story went in the summer of 2002 also probably have a pretty good idea why Banks’ high school football photos are tough to find.

That’s because, at the age of 16, Banks was accused by a classmate of kidnapping and rape.

He claimed innocence, but when faced with a 41-year prison sentence in a case based on his word against the alleged victim, Banks decided to take a 5-year plea deal.

If you’re a fan of our Fact Snacks or you’re at all familiar with this story, then you also know that the story didn’t end there, either:

Photo Credit: Did You Know?

That’s right. Not only was Banks totally innocent, just as he’d claimed all along, but he managed to get the accuser to admit to it on tape:

The tapes were the key to exonerating Banks of all charges in 2012, and the school later won their lawsuit against Wanetta Gibson, so she had to give back all the money she’d won when she’d sued them for their unsafe environment.

And Banks, who had missed out on playing college ball, was invited to several training camps that summer. The first one he accepted was from Pete Carroll, the man who would have been his coach at USC, if life had happened as he’d planned.

Ultimately, the Seahawks felt that Banks couldn’t make up for the ten years he missed. So they released him.

Then, Banks went on to play in the short-lived UFL for two games before the league folded.

He went back to training to give it another shot the next year.

Banks ended up signing with the Atlanta Falcons for camp in 2013, but was released when they announced final roster cuts right before the start of the season:

Photo Credit: Thomson200/Wiki

If that had been the end of it, Banks would probably have been able to find some decent closure. Despite the 10 years that had been stolen from him, he’d managed to make it farther than most who dream of playing in the NFL.

But it wasn’t.

After telling his story at the rookie symposium, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was impressed enough to offer Banks a job with the league’s Department of Operations:

Banks still works for the NFL, and he also has both documentary and feature films about his life in the works. He also works with nonprofits life XONR8 through the California Innocence Project to create interest and awareness about wrongful convictions.

Sources: 1, 234

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