Brian Banks makes NFL debut; dream comes true with preseason play

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Brian Banks (53) prepares to stop Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead (33) during the second half of a preseason NFL football game, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman) AP Photo/David Goldman

(CBS News) Brian Banks got his football wish granted last night. He made his NFL debut, as a linebacker for the Atlanta Falcons.

Banks' dream had been derailed 11 years ago after being charged and convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

Banks lost his freedom, but not the will to succeed.

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Late in the fourth quarter and with his team down by 24 points, a rookie inside linebacker took the field at an insignificant moment in a meaningless preseason game. The game was meaningless to many, but not Brian Banks.

After a decade away from the game, he was finally playing NFL football.

Banks said, "I was amped up the entire time, all the way until they said the game was over. I'm still amped up, going around, shaking everyone's hand."

Forget about the few tackles he made, Banks' real story lies in what it took for him to get to the game. In 2002, Banks was a star high school player with a full ride to University of Southern California, but when a fellow student accused him of rape, Banks was tried and sentenced to five years in prison. Then, nine years later, his accuser -- caught on a hidden camera -- admitted it was all a lie.

Banks said, "People see me as something I'm not."

In May of last year, Banks was exonerated.

Banks has said of his release, "It was bittersweet, so I was so happy to hear those words, but I'm still left with that question of 'why'."

This offseason he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons. Banks knows he has an uphill climb ahead of him. But after all he's been through, he's not about to give up.

After the game, Banks told reporters, "It's a dream come true. I'm still fighting for a spot on the team, but I said I would make it to the NFL, and play a game, and I did that today."

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