Banks works out, earns camp invite
ERIC D. WILLIAMS
RENTON – Can you blame Brian Banks for feeling like he was floating on air Thursday morning, taking questions from a throng of local and national reporters?
Minutes earlier, the exonerated former high school star linebacker had just been told by Seattle coach Pete Carroll that he had earned an invitation to next week’s minicamp after a productive workout at the team’s facility, conducted by Seattle linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr.
“I really don’t have a 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.”
On Wednesday, Banks appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno to tell his story.
Hours later, Banks flew on an airplane for the first time in 15 years.
He arrived in Seattle early Thursday morning for his first NFL job interview – two weeks to the day the heavily recruited player out of Southern California had rape and kidnapping charges dismissed after serving more than five years in jail for a crime he did not commit.
When Banks was 17 year olds, a teenage girl he had known since childhood claimed he raped her. Banks was arrested and, on advice of counsel, pleaded no contest to rape and an enhancement of kidnapping 10 years ago in order to avoid a possible life sentence if tried by a jury.
He served five years and two months in prison, but his accuser later recanted her claim and offered to help Banks clear his name after his release from jail. Banks was on probation and wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet at a hearing late last month where he was cleared.
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 an oral commitment to USC to play for Carroll. He said it meant a lot to him to have that same coach be the first to invite him in for a tryout.
“I’ve always looked up to Coach Carroll,” Banks said. “He’s always been an influence to me, even before I ever had the chance of meeting him and talking to him. Just what he’s done for USC and the players that played there, I’ve always looked up to him. To have him reach back out to me was just big.”
Banks said he’ll speak to his agent, Bruce Tollner, before making a decision on Carroll’s offer. According to an ESPN report, Banks has tryouts lined up with five other teams.
The San Diego Union Tribune reported late Thursday that Banks is scheduled to work out for the Chargers today.
The Seahawks have 11 linebackers on the 90-man roster, and kept seven on the 53-man roster last year.
Along with position-specific drills, Banks said he did some basic testing such as 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 measured in at 6-foot-2 and 239 pounds. He doesn’t know if the Seahawks want to try him at inside or outside linebacker, although Carroll indicated that Banks’ size is better suited for outside.
Carroll said the coaching staff was impressed with the fluid way Banks 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.”
However, the Seahawks also have to temper expectations because Banks has not played organized football in several years.
“This is a long haul,” Carroll said. “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 level of competition you can find in our world of football, and it’s going to be very difficult. But he deserves a chance.”
Banks said he played one college season at Long Beach City College when he first paroled from prison in 2007.
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 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.
“From my understanding you have like a five-year period within college football,” Banks said. “And that started in ’07 and it would have ended last year.
“So with that in mind I felt like, ‘Why not just shoot for the stars?’ ”
A decade after struggling through a nightmarish experience, Banks said he’s blessed to have the opportunity to pursue his dream.
“I told the coaches today coming out here – and I absolutely mean it – I feel more appreciative for the opportunity than I feel deserving,” he said. “I’m honored to have all of these people, all of these coaches from different teams give me this opportunity with not seeing me play in so long.”
Carroll said defensive end Chris Clemons is expected to be at the team’s mandatory minicamp next week. Clemons, who’s in the final year of his contract that will pay him a base salary of $4 million in 2012, is thought to be frustrated that Seattle has not offered to extend his contract, along with drafting Bruce Irvin as a possible replacement.
“It’s a personal situation for Chris. It’s his decision not participate at this time,” Carroll told 710-AM ESPN radio. “We have talked to the agent (Donal Henderson). We’ve done some serious talks, but not to the point where he’s ready to jump back in yet.
“I’ve talked to Chris. He’s in good spirits. He’s working out real hard. So it’s something he feels he needs to do at this time. He’ll be in for the minicamp.”
Clemons was not seen by reporters at the team’s voluntary OTAs (organized team activities) that were open to the media the past two weeks. He has led the Seahawks the past two seasons with 11 sacks in each. He turns 31 on Oct. 30
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks