Brian Banks impressed the Seahawks enough during a private workout Thursday to earn an invitation to the team's minicamp next week. (AP Photo/Seattle Seahawks, Corky Trewin)
He was falsely accused of rape and spent five years in prison and another five on parole, his life seemingly ruined. So it would be understandable if Brian Banks was a bitter man. But in an exclusive interview with 97.3 KIRO FM's Dori Monson, what's most amazing is his lack of anger.
"I've been there I've had those days when I was upset and bitter. I later realized that hanging on to those emotions and being in that mindset, it only affected me. It never changed the situation nor did it change the thought process of the people who put me in that situation," Banks said in the interview moments after he completed a private workout with the Seattle Seahawks.
"I really just realized that I needed to worry and focus on me rather than the situation and that's really what ultimately got me where I am today."
Banks was a 16-year-old high school football star in Long Beach, Calif. when a girl accused him of rape.
A promising career that was to include a scholarship was ruined when he accepted a plea agreement rather than risk decades in prison. Banks said his court-appointed lawyer warned him he'd face an all-white jury that would surely convict him regardless of his innocence and encouraged him to plead no contest.
"All I could think of at the age of 17 was 'how can I get out of this jail cell, how can I get home to my family?' And the quickest way that I saw was to plead to no contest and hope and pray that probation was in store for me. And it turned out to be six years in prison," Banks said.
He never gave up his dream of playing professional football, but even after his release, he was placed on parole, monitored by an ankle bracelet, and forced to stay within Los Angeles County.
"I couldn't live within 2,000 feet of any school or park, I had to register as a sex offender and I pretty much lost 10 years of my life," Banks said.
Things changed for Banks recently when, in a strange turn of events, his accuser, Wanetta Gibson, friended him on Facebook when he got out of prison. The childhood friends met and she admitted she lied and offered to help him clear his name.
But Gibson refused to repeat the story to prosecutors because she feared she would have to return a $1.5 million payment from a civil suit brought by her mother against Long Beach schools.
During a second meeting that was secretly videotaped, she told Banks, "I will go through with helping you, but it's like at the same time all that money they gave us, I mean gave me, I don't want to have to pay it back," according to a defense investigator who was at the meeting.
But Banks refused to say anything about the woman who cost him so much.
"I don't have any feelings whether they be good or bad. I feel like the truth speaks for itself. I'm just thankful to be where I am today and that's free," Banks told Dori.
His tryout went so well, coach Pete Carroll has invited Banks to return for another tryout next week at the Seahawks' minicamp.
"It's a long road. It's a long way to go and I'm ready for that. I'm definitely good enough to be here now with the opportunity of a workout and tryout. I feel like with some great professional coaching, I'm only going to get better and I will get better. And there's only one way to go and that's up from here," Banks said.
Carroll, who recruited Banks as a teenager when he coached at USC, said after the tryout he has been extremely impressed with the now 26-year-old both on and off the field.
"I was really proud to be able to say that to him and the light in his eye, the emotion that was running through him throughout the day, but at that moment, was amazing," Carroll said about offering Banks a spot at minicamp.
Even Carroll admits it's a long shot for Banks to make the team. But the grateful young man says compared to the obstacles he's overcome the past decade, he's more than ready for the opportunity.
"Everyday I'm just thanking God. Two weeks ago I was just a guy on parole labeled a sex offender and just trying to deal with the situation at hand. Today, I'm a free man and working out with the Seattle Seahawks," Banks said.
-JOSH KERNS/MY NORTHWEST.COM
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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