Endure – Brian Banks’ Story
Brian Banks was a star football player at Long Beach Poly High School in California. The same high school that NFL players DeSean Jackson (WR – Philadelphia Eagles), Willie McGinest (Retired OLB/DE), Winston Justice (OT – Indianapolis Colts), Marcedes Lewis (TE – Jacksonville Jaguars) and as many as 56 others attended. Banks was supposed to be next in the long pipeline of NFL prospects. In 2002, the linebacker prospect was a junior in high school at 16 years old when a girl named Wanetta Gibson wrongfully accused Banks of rape after the couple went to a school stairwell to make out. The blue chip recruit who had already received a full-ride scholarship to USC and many other top colleges, suddenly was looking at a very different future.
While authorities couldn’t find anything to prove that the assault had actually occurred, Banks’ attorney pushed him to make a deal and cop a plea. His attorney felt that Banks’ size (6’2″ – 230 lb), age and race would only lead to a conviction of 40 or more years in jail if presented in front of a jury. Banks reluctantly agreed and set about the 6 year prison sentence that he received in the plea. Banks was finally released after 5 years and 2 months, but the problems continued. He had to register as a convicted sex felon, wear a GPS ankle bracelet at all times, and couldn’t get a job. The fallout from this “assault” was dramatic on both ends. The one time NFL hopeful was dealing with life as a convicted sex felon after doing time in jail while the one who provoked this, Wanetta Gibson, was doing fine after receiving a $750,000 settlement from the school following her accusation.
So then, last year, nearly 9 years since everything began, Banks noticed a message on Facebook from, guess who? Wanetta Gibson. The message essentially said, “Let’s let bygones be bygones”. What do you say to someone who has wasted nearly a decade of your life for their own personal desires? The entire situation had weighed heavily on Banks as he tried to continue to take one step at a time, “I lost everything: my hopes, my dreams, my entire life”. Gibson on the other hand still wanted to contact Banks for some reason. According to Banks, Gibson was very adamant about meeting up with him and after coming up with a plan, a meeting was set up. What Gibson didn’t know was that Banks hired a private investigator to record the conversations between himself and Gibson. When they met up, Gibson continued to express how she wanted to move on and forget the past. She then came back the next day and was asked, point blank,
“Did Brian rape you?”
“Did he kidnap you?”
And just like that, a stroke of luck. While Gibson’s intentions were and continue to be unclear, some of the messages seem to show that Gibson wanted to get back together with Banks. Yeah… she apparently wanted to get back together with the man that she set up to waste 10 years of his life. So with the help of the California Innocence Project, the recordings were presented to the original judge and Banks got his life back. On May 24, 2012, Banks was exonerated of the rape conviction, removed the ankle bracelet and was allowed to walk a free man.
Banks, now 26 years old, still wants to follow his dream of being a professional football player. He has been working with a NFL trainer since the fall and he still has the physical tools that made him a hot commodity back in high school. According to Banks and his trainer, those physical tools include a dead-lift of 545 lbs, a box jump of 55 inches flat-footed, an over 10 foot broad jump and can run a 4.6 second 40-yard dash at 6’2″, 245 lbs. Those are great numbers for anyone, much less a player who has been out of the game for 10 years. In fact, the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins all have asked for a workout from Banks. His physical tools and ability could allow Banks to jump back into the sport he loves and while the odds are against him, he has endured much worse to get to this point. There is no reason to doubt Banks now.