Brian Banks’ NFL dream is alive for one more week, if he chooses to accept Pete Carroll’s offer.
Banks, recently exonerated of rape charges after serving more than five years in prison and another five on parole, was given a tryout by the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. Afterward, Banks stood before a bank of television cameras and announced that the Seahawks had invited him back for their minicamp next week.
The tryout came exactly two weeks after a California court threw out Banks’ conviction in a rape case in which he was falsely accused. And while his football skills were admittedly rusty, Carroll, the Seahawks head coach, saw enough to keep the feel-good story going for at least another week — if Banks accepts the invitation.
”He deserved a chance. Given other circumstances he would have earned it in front of our eyes, but this is a guy who just deserved it,” Carroll said.
The 26-year-old Banks has been thrust into the spotlight following his exoneration. When he was 17, a teenage girl Banks had known since childhood claimed he had raped her. He was arrested and, on advice of counsel, pleaded no contest to rape and an enhancement of kidnapping 10 years ago in order to avoid a possible life sentence if tried by a jury.
Banks served five years and two months in prison, but in a strange turn of events, the woman later recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after he was out of jail. Banks was on probation and was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet at the hearing late last month where he was completely exonerated.
Banks has become a spokesman and a celebrity in the span of 14 days.
”I served five years in prison. The last two weeks feels like a breeze,” Banks said.
Banks’ hesitation on accepting the minicamp invite was because of the need to speak further with his agent about what other options might be out there. A release last week from the California Western School of Law, home of the California Innocence Project, indicated that a half-dozen teams had gotten in contact with Banks.
But Seattle and Carroll were first in line.
The relationship between Carroll and Banks first developed long ago when Banks was a top high school prospect and Carroll was in the beginning stages of turning USC into a college powerhouse. Banks was offered a scholarship and made a verbal commitment to play football at USC during the spring of his junior year at Long Beach Poly.
More than a decade later, the two were reunited on a rainy Thursday morning as Carroll watched Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. put Banks through a basic workout. He measured at 6-foot-2, 239 pounds. He ran a 40-yard dash, but didn’t know his time. He did bag drills. He showed off the athleticism that first attracted Carroll to Banks when he was a prep star.
And he lived out a dream that seemed so unlikely while he was incarcerated. Banks, wearing a sweat shirt with ”XONR8” on the front, said he was extremely appreciative that the Seahawks and Carroll are giving him a chance.
”I feel more appreciative for the opportunity than I feel deserving,” Banks said.