Man exonerated of rape not letting NFL dream die

(CBS News) It's been a roller coaster of a year for Brian Banks. CBS News first brought you his story seven months ago. The former high school football star was on probation after serving time for a crime that never happened.

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Then, Banks was given a second chance, and he literally ran with it. Banks may look like he's an average football player playing an average football game. But for him, this chance to play professional football is a triumph over incredible odds.

Banks said, "I'm ecstatic. And I'm humbled by the whole experience."

A decade ago, Banks was a star high school athlete with strong college prospects. But then a fellow student falsely accused him of rape. Banks was advised to plead "no contest." He spent five years in prison, followed by four years wearing an ankle bracelet on probation as a registered sex offender. But just last year, Banks and a private investigator were able to catch the accuser on tape, admitting she lied about the assault.

That led to Banks' exoneration in May. Banks' first thoughts were not of regret or revenge, but of the game he loved. Banks said at the time, "I'd like to give a shot at the NFL."

Then-University of Southern California Coach Pete Carroll was looking to recruit Banks a decade ago. Now coach of the Seattle Seahawks, Carroll came calling once again. Banks said, "I answered the phone, and it was Pete Carroll asking if I knew any linebackers. He was looking for a linebacker. I said, 'You got the right number.' "

Banks got his shot, but with no offers after trying out with several NFL teams he decided to sign with the Las Vegas Locomotives, a team in the United Football League.

Asked how he would describe the whirlwind of his life these days, Banks said recently, "Nonstop. Just nonstop in pursuit of the dream."

It's still a dream deferred. After the Locomotives won their first four games, financial pressures forced the UFL to cancel the rest of its season. But Brian Banks is not the kind of man to give up hope.

Banks said through it all, he's learned he's "never gonna quit."

On "CBS This Morning," Banks said he has mixed emotions about his experiences. "To have this finally be over with, to finally have my name cleared and have my life back and also reflect on everything I've been through. It's been a 10-year struggle, so I'm happy to be free now."

To watch Banks' full interview and to watch a report by Randy Paige, of CBS News' Los Angeles station KCBS, watch the video in the player below.

Asked about his accuser and her potential motive, Banks said he knew his accuser from middle school. Though he said his accuser's motive is unknown, he suspects she didn't want her parents to know she was sexually active.

But he's not focusing on the past, by any means. He said, "What is important for me is forward progression. What will I do for me, instead of sitting down and having negative thoughts about anyone or myself. I realized a long time ago that only stagnates me. What I do have control over is me while in any situation, whether good or bad."

Banks said he likes his chances to play more professional ball -- in the NFL. "Right now, I have an opportunity to try out for a number of teams and the response was experience. It wasn't the lack of ability. So, having had the opportunity to play in the UFL and play around coaches that had NFL experience, players that have NFL experience, I use that as a platform and vessel to broaden my skill.

"Some people see my life heading in the direction of advocating for other wrongfully convicted men and women, and I do, too," he said. "But football is a big passion of mine, and it's still very close. I've talked to a few NFL teams that are considering bringing me in before this season even ends. So it's still in pursuit."

In the face of missing 10 years of football, Banks said he has "no doubt" he can play the game. He said, "Whatever you put your mind to you can achieve. ... I strongly believe in what you want in this world you must first put out. You just have to be good for yourself."

Be sure to tune in later this month to a "60 Minutes" report about Banks.

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