Update, May 30: “Brian Banks Has NFL Tryout With Seahawks After Rape Exoneration.”
At 16 years old, Long Beach Polytechnic High School sports star Brian Banks was on the fast track to a smashing football career. He was a starring middle linebacker on one of California's top high-school teams, and had offers flowing in from all the best colleges. USC wanted him on full ride.
Then, at 17 years old, Banks was convicted of kidnapping and raping a female classmate at Long Beach Poly and sentenced to six years in state prison.
His youth, and football career, were over. Until today…
… when, based on new DNA evidence — or, more accurately, lack thereof — from the girl who had accused him, and a video interview in which she confesses that Banks never raped her, a judge exonerated Banks of his damning conviction.
Throughout the entire ordeal, Banks has claimed they only made out.
He's 26 now — only one year shy of the NFL average, a mere 27 years old. And although he's been hitting the gym since last October (see video below), he missed out on an entire USC football career and all the athletic wisdom that would have come with it. Instead, he was sitting in a jail cell, wondering how the hell things got this bad.
Today, Banks' trainer tells LA Weekly that his client is 100 percent ready for the NFL — and is hoping for a spot on the San Diego Chargers, so as to stay local.
No coaches have responded yet, but Marcus Hobbs, who works at the MetroFlex gym in Long Beach, is confidant that around June or July, at the height of recruitment season, they'll consider giving him a tryout.
“What coach wouldn't want this story?” asks Hobbs.
Banks originally pleaded “no contest” to kidnap-rape on the advice of his defense attorney, who allegedly told him on that fateful day in 2003: “When you go into that courtroom the jury is going to see a big black teenager and you're automatically going to be assumed guilty.”
And he was.
Shockingly, Banks says his accuser actually friended him on Facebook when he got out of jail, asking him to let “bygones be bygones.”
But 10 years of bygones can easily cost a young NFL hopeful his career.
The last five of those years have been spent trying to clear Banks' name, seeing as no respectable team would take a convicted rapist on as middle linebacker. But when hope surfaced last fall that Banks could be exonerated, his NFL dreams came back into view.
Hobbs says that when Banks first came to him in October, he was “very overweight.”
But they got right down to business, and — according to Hobbs — his star client has since lost 50 pounds and regained his former strength.
“What gives me hope is the fact that, when Brian came to me, he was at least 300 pounds,” says the trainer. “There was pretty much no way he was going to get there without being as agile as he is. He has had football in his heart ever since he was 16.”
Still — we're talking about the National Football League, where even the most heartbreaking sob stories can't trump cash flow.
Chris Albert, Banks' strength trainer, is equally confident that the 26-year-old is as ready as he'll ever be.
“If Brian can get through what he just went through over the last 10 years, he can get through anything,” says Albert.
“He comes in around four times a week, and we have constantly varied compound movements to strengthen each part of his body,” he says. “We've been focusing on his explosiveness — staying strong for longer periods of time.”
And it shows. “His squat went from 225 pounds to being able to rep 500 pounds, for multiple reps,” says Albert. He's also been doing field work with former professional football players.
Will it be enough? We've contacted some sports-industry experts for their opinion on the likelihood of a former child star picking up where he left off after a decade of legal struggles.
No matter what happens up top, though — this is one big kid that clearly deserves a second chance. And, via his “Pursuit of the NFL” video blog, we'll be able to watch his made-for-Hollywood story every step of the way.
Update, 4:30 p.m.: Bill Johnston, director of public relations for the San Diego Chargers, says “there's no interest in this time” at letting Banks try out for the team.
“No one here had even heard of him until this story came out until this story came out today,” says Johnston.