LONG BEACH, Calif – A onetime California high school football star who spent five years in prison on a false rape allegation is hoping that at age 26 he still has a shot at an NFL contract.
"I think that any team that gives me an opportunity will be really impressed with what I can do despite all of what I've been through these past 10 years," Brian Banks said Friday on NBC's "Today" show.
Charges of rape were officially dropped a day earlier after Banks' attorney gave prosecutors a tape in which his accuser said she felt guilty about making up the allegations in 2002.
At the time, Banks was a star linebacker at Long Beach's Polytechnic High School, with plans to play at USC. His dreams of an NFL career were derailed when Wanetta Gibson, his then 15-year-old classmate, accused him of rape.
Rather than face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted at trial, he accepted the advice of his former attorney to plead no contest and served five years behind bars.
In Friday's interview, Banks recalled his former attorney telling him, "You can go into that courtroom in front of a jury. You're a big black teenager, they're going to automatically assume you as guilty, you'll be facing 41 years to life. What do you want to do?"
After his release he was placed on probation, subject to electronic monitoring and had to register as a sex offender.
Last year, Gibson contacted Banks on Facebook, telling him she felt guilty about making up the rape allegations. She asked if they could "let bygones be bygones," though she said she did not want to admit her lie to prosecutors for fear of having to give back the $1.5 million settlement she won from Long Beach Unified School District after filing a lawsuit accusing the school of poor security.