A man who was exonerated after spending five years in prison for a rape he did not commit has another chance to pursue his dream of playing professional football.
Brian Banks, a highly recruited standout football player at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, will play for the Las Vegas Locos of the United Football League this season. Since his release from prison, Banks has tried out for NFL teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and former USC coach Pete Carroll.
"Congrats to Brian Banks!," Carroll tweeted Wednesday. "Signed by the UFL's Las Vegas club... we're fired up for him!"
When Carroll was head coach at USC, the program was one of several college powerhouses that recruited Banks, who is now 26.
The linebacker was 16 when a girl he had known since childhood accused him of rape. Banks was arrested and, on advice of counsel, pleaded no contest to rape and an enhancement of kidnapping in order to avoid a possible life sentence if tried by a jury.
He watched from a prison cell as his teammates and classmates moved on from high school.
His dreams of playing football were dashed until the California Innocence Project, based in San Diego, took up his case to help him prove his innocence. A hidden-camera confession helped exonerate Banks, who was cleared of the charge on May 24.
"As I pursue the #NFL, the #UFL will be a vessel to gain experience and prepare me for a possible mid season pick up or next NFL season," Banks tweeted Tuesday.
The United Football League has four franchises -- Las Vegas, Virginia, Omaha and Sacramento. Las Vegas will play at home to open the season Sept. 26 against the Virginia Destroyers.