ATLANTA (AP) — 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.”