Exonerated high school star LB Brian Banks earns invite to next week’s minicamp

After Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. put exonerated high school star line backer Brian Banks through his paces during a morning workout here at the team’s facility, head coach Pete Carroll said he’s seen enough, offering Banks an invitation to tryout for the team’s 90-man roster during the Seahawks’ minicamp next week.

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“I was really proud to be able to say that to him,” Carroll said. “And the light in his eye, and the emotion that was running through him throughout the day, and at that moment, was amazing.

“This is a great illustration for us of why people deserve a second chance.”

Banks said he’ll speak to his agent, Bruce Tollner, before making a decision. According to an ESPN report, Banks currently has other tryouts lined up with Washington, Miami and Kansas City.

“I really don’t have word for it. It’s just a dream come true,” Banks said. “A lot of people work hard to get to this point. I’ve also worked hard myself. And I’m just thankful for this opportunity.”

The Seahawks currently have 11 linebackers on the 90-man roster, and kept seven on the 53-man roster last year.

Banks said he arrived in Seattle late last night, his first ride on an airplane in 15 years, and only the second one in his life.

And after going through his medical check this morning, he went through basic linebacker drills on the field with Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.

Banks said he also did some basic testing like running the 40-yard-dash. Banks said he did not know what his 40 time was, but said he was running mid 4.6s and 4.7s in his training leading up to the tryout.

Banks said he measured in at 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds. He doesn’t know if the Seahawks will try him at inside or outside linebacker, but Seattle head coach Pete Carroll indicated that Banks’ size is better suited for outside linebacker.

Carroll said the coaching staff was impressed with the fluid way he moved during the drills.

“He’s very coordinated,” Carroll said. “He has good, natural quickness. He has good flexibility. He jumped well. He caught the ball real well. I don’t know how many balls he’s been catching, but his hand-eye coordination is definitely there.

“You can see that he’s not in the kind of condition that our guys need to be in, so this week in particular is not going to be a great indication, but it will be a start.”

However, the Seahawks also have to temper expectations because Banks has not played organized football in several years, so he’s facing a steep learning curve.

“We need to be very balanced about out expectations,” Carroll said. “This is a long haul. It’s against all odds that he could get to this point. But we’re going to support the chance for him, and have a vision for what he can become more than what he is right now today, and see where it goes.

“It’s going to happen quick. This is the highest expectation you can find in our world of football, and it’s going to be very difficult. But he deserves a chance.”

Banks was heavily recruited linebacker out of Southern California who was exonerated of rape and kidnapping charges two weeks ago after serving more than five years in jail.

Banks, 26, pleaded no contest 10 years ago on the advice of a lawyer after a childhood friend accused him of attacking her on their high school campus.

Before his ordeal, Banks starred at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, attracting interest from elite college football programs USC, Ohio State and Michigan.

Banks gave a verbal commitment to USC to play for Carroll his junior year in high school.

I asked Banks why he did not pursue playing in college. Banks said he played one college season at Long Beach City College when he first paroled from prison.

Soon after that, California implemented a new law that all parolees for sex offenses have to wear a GPS tracking devise, which eliminated his opportunity to continue playing.

Banks also said he wasn’t sure if he’d be eligible to participate in college because of the time between his first season and going back right now, and that’s why he’s pursuing a shot at the NFL

Bates wore a blue sweatshirt with a California license plate that read “XONR8” on the front, a nod to the California Innocence Project, the organization that believed in him and provided the legal representation for him to get out of jail.

Banks says he has five of the sweatshirts, and wears one every day.

“Ever since May 24th, the day of my exoneration, this has been the ‘S’ on my chest,” Banks said. “This has been my symbol of freedom, and I carry it with me wherever I go. … For me, when I put it on, it’s like Superman. When he puts on his cape, he’s different man. He’s a stronger man, and he’s ready to save the world.

“I feel like when I put this on, I represent the California Innocence Project. And I represent the movement of helping other people who are in the same situation I’m in”

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