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Wrongfully convicted man realizes NFL dream

By Charles Odum

AP Sports Writer

LAST UPDATED: 02:02 p.m. HST, Aug 10, 2013

ATLANTA » A jubilant Brian Banks described his preseason debut with the Atlanta Falcons as "better than any roller-coaster ride you can ever get on."

Banks, 28, cherished that high even more than a normal rookie because his life has hit lows few can imagine.

Banks spent five years in prison and five years on probation following his conviction of rape and kidnapping charges a decade ago. He is free to finally pursue his career as a NFL linebacker because the woman who made the charge when Banks was 16 and a high school junior recanted her accusation.

The conviction was overturned by a California court on May 12, 2012.

Banks, who signed with the Falcons in March, had two tackles in the Falcons' 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night.

Fans familiar with Banks' comeback story gave the former Long Beach (Calif.) Polytechnic High School standout a warm ovation during pregame introductions.

The cheers lifted Banks' spirits even higher.

"It was out of control," Banks said. "Just running out there, the flames, the cheers and the crowd, it was emotional, it really was. I wasn't nervous at all. I wasn't over-excited or anything, but just running out of that tunnel, I mean, the adrenaline that comes with that is just indescribable.

"It's better than any roller-coaster ride you can ever get on."

Banks said he received more encouragement during the game from his teammates.

"Then just to be on the sideline and to hear all the veterans tell you, 'Man when your turn comes, when they call your number just play,'" he said. "Just the support and love from everybody is more than I can ask for."

Banks had tryouts with Kansas City, San Diego and San Francisco and attended minicamp with Seattle before spending the 2012 season with Las Vegas of the United Football League.

The Falcons then gave Banks another chance to fulfill his NFL dream.

The 6-foot-2, 250-pound Banks needs a strong preseason to earn a roster spot. He is listed as Atlanta's third-string middle linebacker, behind Akeem Dent and Pat Schiller.

His preseason debut came late in the game. His first tackle came when he stopped Bengals running back Daniel Herron following a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter. Postgame stats also credited Banks with an assist.

"I was motivated," Banks said. "I was like I got to pick up a tackle. I got to get at least one tackle. I picked up two, so it was pretty cool."

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allie wrote:
cool..hope he makes it
on August 9,2013 | 10:09AM
I cant even imagine how good he must feel. To be free after that long, and able to no only hold himself together mentally, but physically too. Keep those dreams alive-dont give up, dont ever give up!
on August 9,2013 | 10:57AM
wlsc wrote:
agree!!!! and big!!!!!
on August 9,2013 | 01:41PM
BigOpu wrote:
After 5 yrs of jail, and 5 yrs of probation that B---h recants? What took her so long? If he raped her he should still be in jail. But if not, and she just wanted to ruin his life, then she should serve the same amount of time.
on August 9,2013 | 11:53AM
MakaniKai wrote:
Totally agree BigOpu!
on August 9,2013 | 12:19PM
wlsc wrote:
agree!!!!! or even more!!!!!!
on August 9,2013 | 01:37PM
false wrote:
Spent five years behind bars and five years probation and the women recants. Hope he makes the team.
on August 9,2013 | 03:33PM
RetiredUSMC wrote:
The woman that lied about the rape sued the school district and got 1.5 Million Dollars because she said it was a unsafe environment !
on August 10,2013 | 03:38AM
onevoice82 wrote:
Exactly USMC! And this is why there is a sudden rash of new sex abuse cases in the Catholic Church in Hawaii, lawmakers open the "cash-in window" line when they gave a two year window to bring lawsuits against priests that have been long since dead. Not saying all the cases are unfounded but, we live in a world where money speaks louder than honor.
on August 10,2013 | 05:18AM
serious wrote:
Even Oprah is following Obama on the "r" card. Nothing you can say--look at Paula Dean----stupid!! Anyone not used a racial slur in anger?????
on August 10,2013 | 12:10PM
scooters wrote:
Good luck!
on August 10,2013 | 08:44AM
GorillaSmith wrote:
Great story. All decent peope everywhere have to be rooting for ths young man.
on August 10,2013 | 02:05PM