In nine days Brian Banks will take the field as a rookie linebacker in an NFL training camp. While Banks' road to that field is quite different from the other rookies he's taking the field with, he'll be looked at as just another young player trying to make the squad.
After signing with the Falcons in the offseason, Banks' inspirational comeback story has been shared all over the NFL, but the Falcons front office has maintained all along that the signing of Banks was because they found him intriguing as a football player. Although he hasn't played football since high school, he's used his newfound freedom to train vigorously for an opportunity like the Falcons gave him.
Now in the position he's worked towards, he spent the offseason buried in the playbook. At the close of the June's minicamp, Banks said he most looked forward to putting on the pads again and the increase in physicality that comes with it.
PHOTOS: [Banks At NFL Studios](Nolan Noticed Banks' Maturity Quickly)
Banks' defensive coordinator has coached a number of great linebackers in his time in the NFL with Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis headlining that list. Mike Nolan said during OTAs in May that the maturity Banks demonstrates in such an unfamiliar situation is what he noticed quickly.
"He takes it real serious," Nolan said. "It's not just fun and games to him as it is for some guys at times. That's the only thing I really see from a maturity standpoint. It's unfortunate that he hasn't played in a long time because that does show at times, too. I think the only advantage that I would say right now that he's got on other guys is the fact that he is a more mature guy, knows what's at stake and how important it is to him."
Nolan said that was the major differentiator for Banks and some of the other young players he's coached in his career. Physically, he said, he's in a similar place as many of the other young guys on the Falcons roster, but Banks' go-to-work attitude is what can help separate him.
Banks is wagering that his ability to focus on the task at hand and learn quickly will give him the edge he needs. His coaches see that quality in him already and during Russell Athletic Training Camp he will put everything he's been working on out there for everyone to see. Whether he earns a roster spot this season remains to be seen, but it's hard to bet against a guy like Banks.