(CBS Local)– Brian Banks was supposed to be the next football star at USC.
The Long Beach Polytechnic linebacker was set to play for Pete Carroll and the Trojans on a full scholarship and then his whole life changed. Banks was falsely accused of kidnapping and raping a classmate named Wanetta Gibson and ended up spending over five years in prison.
The conviction was finally overturned in 2012 and a new movie about this incredible story called “Brian Banks” hits theaters this weekend. The film is directed by Tom Shadyac and stars Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, and Morgan Freeman. Banks never thought he would see this day when he thinks back to his time in prison.
“I used to sit in a cell and think I just want to have a normal life,” said Banks in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “I just want to get out and I just want this to be over. The contrast of a prison cell and wrongful conviction to a movie being made about the whole ordeal is pretty surreal. I didn’t give up.”
Banks said a movie had been in the works for several years before Shadyac made it happen. It also took years for Banks to convince the California Innocence Project to reexamine his case. Banks never gave up despite all the challenges he faced in his life after prison.
“I focused on the things I could control and didn’t pay to much attention to the things I couldn’t control,” said Banks. “I reached out to them [California Innocence Project] the first time when I was incarcerated and the only way they could help me is if the witness in my case recanted their story. The only witness was the person who made up the accusation. The recantation tape that they finally saw was the key to setting me free.”
Banks has not heard from his accuser Gibson since the day she recanted her story on tape. After everything the former high school football star went through, he finally got to live out his dream when he played a preseason game for the Atlanta Falcons.
“I walked in as a 28-year-old rookie, but I was treated as if I was a veteran on the team,” said Banks. “There was a lot of respect and I really appreciated what Atlanta and the Falcons did for me. The love that they gave me and the way they welcomed me in… it was a dream restored.”
“Brian Banks” is in theaters now.