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Transcript: Brian Banks Conference Call

Posted Apr 3, 2013

Newest Atlanta Falcons linebacker Brian Banks held a conference call with the Atlanta and national media Wednesday shortly after signing his contract.

Opening statement:
“Hello everybody, I honestly want to start off before anything, I just want to thank God for the opportunity. I want to thank God for life, for getting me through five years of prison, five years of parole, a wrongful conviction, having my life given back to me, still being healthy and mentally sane to continue to obtain the goals that I have always wanted from childhood. I just want to give God all of the praise for this, first and foremost. I want to thank the Atlanta Falcons, the entire organization, Mr. Blank, the GM [Thomas] Dimitroff, and our head coach Mr. [Mike] Smith for this opportunity. This is beyond me. This is about football, it’s about an opportunity, but it is beyond me, this opportunity, my family, my mother who has gone through so much. My mother, who raised me to be the man that I am today, who stood by me as I went through hell and back. When we talk about coming from the bottom, I know all too well what that is and what it’s about and what it looks like and what it feels like. She is the strongest woman that I know and without her, this would not even be happening. Without her I wouldn’t be able to talk the way that I talk or think the way that I think or be the person that I am today. She is my inspiration. I want to thank my family for their continued support and for never giving up on me. Before the woman who had accused me of the crimes that I didn’t commit, before she came forward my family stood by me and they believed in my innocence, they believed in me as a person, as a child and as the man that I am today. I want to thank Jay Glazer for taking me in and taking me under his wing two weeks after I was exonerated and training me and believing in me that I could obtain what’s happening today to be signing with the Atlanta Falcons. I just want to thank everyone who has supported me before football, before exoneration, before the wrongful accusations, who supported me as Brian Banks, the young child who has all the opportunity in the world, just like everybody else. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be in Atlanta. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. I can’t believe this is happening. It’s surreal. It’s one of those situations where I want to jump up and go crazy but it’s such a big deal that it’s one of those situations where you celebrate from within. I can continue and keep going but this is one of the biggest accomplishments that I have…this is the biggest accomplishment, aside from getting my life back and my freedom back, this is the biggest accomplishment of my life, but it is also just the beginning. I want to thank everybody for joining me here on this phone call.”
 
(D. Orlando Ledbetter – AJC)
On the process of signing with the Atlanta Falcons:
“It all started right before last season that just ended. Two weeks before the season started I got a phone call from Jay Glazer and he said that I had an opportunity to come and tryout for the Atlanta Falcons. I showed up. I tried out and the response that I got back was that it wasn’t physically what I couldn’t do, I actually looked really good, it was the fact of timing and I came at a time where I wasn’t going to be able to be acclimated to the system in time, the plays and playbooks and everything, but I was told to stay tuned and an opportunity would possibly come up some time after the season. Here I am now. I’ve had the opportunity to walk around the entire facility and meet everyone from the head coach and GM to personnel and staff. I’ve been shown around the facility and it’s exciting, it really is.”
 
(Jeff Schultz – AJC)
On how difficult it’s been to try and move on after getting your freedom:
“Since my exoneration, of course, it has been difficult. Before this woman came forward, I couldn’t live within 2000 feet of any school or park. I had to register as a convicted sex offender. It was impossible to find work. I had a GPS strapped to my ankle for almost five years. I couldn’t leave the state or the county under any circumstances. It was definitely a difficult road and then May 24th of 2012, my exoneration, my freedom was given back and then another journey was put in front of me. And that was to get in shape and pursue a dream of playing football at the highest level possible, the National Football League. It’s been a long road. It’s been a lot of hard work. It is 10 years missing in my football career, but there has been a lot of work put in to making up for it.”
 
On what he would consider a success in football:
“Making it on to a 53-man roster with the Atlanta Falcons is definitely, for me in my situation and everything I’ve been through and overcome, that is a successful career for me. Having this opportunity and just being able to succeed in what I said that I would make happen.”
 
(Alex Marvez – Fox Sports)
On whether he was worried that he would not get an opportunity as the offseason went on:
“Nothing in life is promised or guaranteed, so I was never worried about missing any opportunity. As I’ve said before, regardless of whether I sign with an NFL team, was able to play football with the National Football League or not, I’ve already won. The biggest thing for me was to have my freedom be given back to me. Everything else is just me trying to live the life that I once lost. I was never worried. All I knew that I could do was work hard and hope that someone saw that hard work and gave me that opportunity.”
 
On working with Jay Glazer and how it helped him stay focused:
“He gave me a call two weeks after exoneration and if I remember correctly his exact words were, ‘get your ass in the gym and let’s go to work.’ You know how Jay is. Everything from, mixed martial arts that in turn help you with quick movements, how to change directions quickly, there are certain types of kicks and knees that we do that help you change direction quickly, the pummeling that we do that is body-to-body contact that helps you understand your body while also trying to manipulate and control another man’s body, and just the conditioning in itself is very gruesome. Jay’s method and his whole idea to his training is all about pushing your breaking point. As hard as we work, he’ll congratulate you, he’ll tell you did a good job and you’ll come in the next day and he’s going to push you harder than he did the day before. Working with Jay has just transformed me from just being a guy who wants to play football and who has a dream to somebody who actually can get it done. I train with Jay first thing in the morning for about an hour and a half. I would rest for about 45 minutes and then I am working with Travelle Gaines at Athletic Gaines. We hit the weights, we get on these resistance bands, these bungee cords and we get in a lot of cardio and a lot of weight lifting. It’s just a lot of hard work. Right now it’s five days a week, two times a day working.”
 
(Jason Cole – Yahoo! Sports)
On when we first worked out with the Falcons:
“Last season, the 2012 season, I came in two weeks before the season started. This was actually during preseason. Atlanta had already made their first initial cuts and I was able to secure a tryout. That’s pretty much how that went down.”
 
On whether he stayed in contact with the Falcons:
“After that workout, I left off with the Falcons basically saying ‘we’ll keep in touch.’ They went on to have an amazing season. There wasn’t any contact. I just went back to the drawing board and kept training. I ended up going to the UFL [United Football League] and playing with the Las Vegas Locomotives and not really knowing what was going to be next, but staying in shape and remaining hopeful.”
 
On what it is like to have a future after everything he’s gone through:
“That’s an interesting question. It’s almost impossible to explain the feeling of not having freedom. To be stripped of your freedom, of your dignity, of the respect that you once had. To lose it all and watch the world pass you by as you sit inside of a prison cell, knowing that you shouldn’t be there, knowing that you are there for another person’s lies. To lose it all and to wake up one day and get it all back, it’s a very humbling, spiritual feeling that you don’t want to take anything for granted. Stepping outside of your house when you want to, sitting on a stoop, being on a porch, being able to open up a refrigerator when you are hungry just to see what’s inside of it. Just being able to be around people who smile at you and say hello to you and you can say that back. Not having to look over your shoulder in a prison behind bars. It’s something that you just don’t want to take for granted and that’s why I work so hard now, for the dreams that I want to succeed because there was one point in my life where I had nothing. I lost everything. I know it’s something that most haven’t experienced, but I wish that no one has to ever experience what I’ve been through.”
 
(Charles Odum – Associated Press)
On what he learned from his previous tryouts and minicamp experience:
“Before any of the tryouts I had no expectations. I didn’t know what to expect. What the National Football League, what the requirements were physically, and so to have these tryouts and to have the opportunity to go to minicamp in Seattle and the rookie minicamp in San Francisco, it gave me that direct, first-person experience of the NFL. I was able to take that back and reassess where I needed to be physically as well as mentally in order to make these dreams come true. Playing with the Las Vegas Locomotives in the UFL, having the opportunity to be coached by coaches that had NFL experience and play alongside players that have been in the NFL and they know the ins and outs of it. Even now, to train at Athletic Gaines, every day I am working out with 10 to 15 different NFL players from different teams and you get to listen to them and learn from them about what it takes the requirements. I’ve gotten a lot of knowledge in this, almost a year, since my day of exoneration of what is required.”
 
On what head coach Mike Smith told him about where he will fit in with the Falcons:
“I am going to be looked at as an inside linebacker and I had a really amazing one-on-one conversation with him where he congratulated me, he said that he was happy for me to be here, but this is just the beginning to a long road to making that next step and making that 53-man roster. We both agreed that I don’t expect any handouts or any favoritism. I am here to work like everybody else. The result of my hard work will be whatever they deem necessary. All I can do is do my best and however it turns out will be. I thank God for the opportunity.”
 
(Chris Dimino – 790theZone)
On missing out on film study and whether he worked on things like that as well as working out physically:
“When I was in prison, for five years and two months, I spent that time educating myself. Any book I could get my hands on, I read. I opened up the thesaurus, I opened up the dictionary. I wanted to understand words, learn words, I worked on my penmanship, and I worked on my public speaking. I wanted to be better than the label that was given to me. I had no clue that I would have an opportunity to clear my name and get my life back and so what I did was study and learn and grow as a man, so that this one situation that I was wrongfully accused of wouldn’t define me for the rest of my life. With that, I am confident that I am able to pick up on defensive schemes and on playbooks. I don’t feel that’s a problem at all. I’ve had the opportunity to have an actual professional playbook in my hands when I was playing in the UFL. I had an opportunity to have a playbook in my hands when I was at the minicamp in Seattle as well as in San Fran, and I’m also working with individuals now and just understanding more about defensive schemes and coverages and so forth. It’s not just me physically training, but also mentally preparing as well.”
 
On his ability now to be an inspiration to kids now after being forced to stay away from children:
“It’s a trip. I have had the opportunity, which I thank God for, it’s been rough but I’ve had the opportunity of seeing both sides of the human spirit those who will put you down and degrade you and judge you and wrongfully accuse you, and brand you something that you’re not. I have met those people. I’ve met people that only have a one-track mind of violence and destruction and negativity, but I have also met people who uplift you and want to support you and want to see you be a better person and successful in life. My journey has been crazy, but my journey has been a learning experience that is unlike any other. To have an opportunity to go back and speak to children, to have an opportunity to go onto campuses and talk to students, I look forward to it. I want to conintue to spread my experiences and my message, as well as share my enlightenment and the things that I have learned in life with other people. It wasn’t the schools, or the kids, or the teachers that denied me it was the restrictions that were put upon me by the parole system, by our prison system, and by our court system. I don’t hold any grudges toward anybody, but I definitely look forward to going to the places that I once couldn’t go to. For example, a few days after my exoneration I went to Sea World, a place that I never could go to. I hadn’t been there in so long, since I was a kid. That was the first place I went to. That was kind of a way for me to say, ‘look at me now.’”
 
(D. Orlando Ledbetter – AJC)
On his high school football career:
“I finished my junior year in high school in 2002. If I remember correctly I was ranked 11th nationwide as a middle linebacker. I had attended multiple camps and I was actually being recruited by, I won’t say every school but pretty much 90-95 percent of Division I schools as well as Division II schools, everyone from USC, UCLA, Miami all the way down to Colgate University. The camps really helped me with the exposure. Long Beach Poly is one of those schools that the best of the best will attend and the best of the best will play. Even though you are a very good player and you have all the talent in the world to make a team better, you also have to wait your turn because the person in front of you is just as good. That was the extent of high school for me.”
 
(Ashley Fox – ESPN)
On whether he allowed himself to think that a day like today would be possible while he was in prison:
“No. I felt at the time, in order for me to exit prison with sane mind and be able to function as a sane person I had to let go of certain dreams and goals that I once wanted in life, football being one of them. I had to watch my class go on and receive scholarships and play collegiate football at a high level. For me, I had to let that go, I had to let those dreams go in order for me to just focus on what was ahead of me and that was five years in prison. That was a completely different life of violence and being away from your family and all of the different elements that go with prison. Football was the last thing on mind and it wasn’t until a few months before I was actually being released from prison that I thought about possibly trying to play football again.”
 
On what he thinks it will take to make the team:
“It’s going to take what it takes everyone else that is trying to make a team. That is hard work, effort, dedication, focus, knowing how to listen, take directions, and never giving up in the pursuit of your dream.”
 
(Jay Adams – AtlantaFalcons.com)
On what it will be like to be in the locker room with his teammates for the first time:
“I can’t wait to meet all my teammates, to shake everyone’s hand, to start to learn names and build a rapport with everyone. I am honored to be able to play with these guys, but I also view everyone from the players to the coaches to everyone that I meet throughout my experiences, I see everyone as a human being just as I am. I think that it is important that I put out what I want to get back and that’s respect, camaraderie, that’s me being a team player and I feel that if I put out what I want to receive then I will receive what I put out. I am looking forward to meeting them, learning from them, and learning with them and, if it makes sense, teaching them things that I’ve learned in my journey as well.”


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