By Tim Booth
TRENTON, Wash. — Brian Banks will get a crack at the NFL, even if it’s simply a tryout.
The Seattle Seahawks confirmed Wednesday they will hold a tryout for Banks, a former high school football star who was exonerated last week in a California rape case in which he was falsely accused.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll did not speak following the Seahawks’ offseason workout on Wednesday, but the team confirmed that Banks will work out for the team on June 7.
“This is what I have dreamed about my entire life,” Banks said in a statement from the California Western School of Law, home of the California Innocence Project. “I am ready to show the NFL what I am capable of doing. I want as many opportunities with as many NFL teams who are willing to give me a shot.”
Seattle may not be the only team. The statement says a half-dozen NFL teams have gotten in contact with Banks, and ESPN.com reported some of those include the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins.
Banks’ attorney, Justin Brooks, head of the California Innocence Project, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The 26-year-old Banks pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of a lawyer after a childhood friend falsely accused him of attacking her on their high school campus. Last Thursday, a judge threw out the conviction that sent Banks to prison for more than five years.
It’s not surprising Carroll and the Seahawks appear to be the first ones willing to give Banks a shot.
Before the charges, Banks was a star middle linebacker at Long Beach Polytechnic High School and was attracting interest from college football powerhouses such as USC, Ohio State and Michigan. He gave a verbal commitment to USC to play for Carroll.
Then, 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 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, Wanetta Gibson, 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 last week where he was completely exonerated.
At the press conferences that followed the court hearing, Brooks appealed to NFL teams to give Banks a chance. He said Banks has been training six days a week to get in shape for the career he wants.
“He has the speed and the strength. He certainly has the heart,” Brooks said. “I hope he gets the attention of people in the sports world.”
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