Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Experience

I am but a man of experiences. Just like any other. A man of many stories. A man on a mission.

Flowery Branch, GA
Training camp with the Atlanta Falcons ended today. This morning, before taking to the field for our last practice, I walked onto the field alone. With no purpose but to reflect. I sat and stared off into the mist that covered the fields. I looked back on each day of camp. How hard did I work? How much effort did I apply? Was I completely focused? Did I leave it all on the field?

A man of experiences. And an amazing experience this was. Post wrongful conviction, never did I imagine being here. NEVER did I imagine playing in  an actual NFL game... How amazing God is, I played in 2 NFL games! And as of now, 2 more to go.

A glimpse of where I should have been, could have been, 7 years ago. The feeling of game day preparation. The energy that flows throughout the locker room. The calmness before war. Piece by piece, armor upon armor, adorned with the Falcons seal. As I ran out of that tunnel and onto the field for game one at the Dome, smoke and flames stretched into the sky,  and I was reassured of my freedom. I was reminded of how thankful I was to the most high. A feeling unlike any other. A rush... an addiction.

I've learned so much throughout camp, and realized how much more learning I have to do. The learning curve was definitely unique for me. While being taught intermediate techniques and principles of the game, I also had to quickly learn the basic 101 intel of a professional linebacker. A new challenge lies before me, and so long as there is opportunity, I will continue to chip away at it until I succeed.

I dont know what lies ahead. But I do know what has been done. I worked hard. Harder than I've ever worked before. I gave camp every ounce of effort I could. I was focused as much as one could be in these shoes. And everyday, I left it all on the field, the good and the bad. I'm so thankful to Mr. Arthur Blank, a giving man. Coach Smith and Mr. Dimitroff. Thank you for this opportunity, this life altering experience. You've given me a chance, and an extended family. My respects to you all.

Two games left in pre-season. Two more weeks to get better. Two more weeks to prove that I belong here. Two more games...

I know where I want to be, and God knows my heart. Nothing last forever, and it is unknown how long things will last. So today, in this very moment, I did it. I won. I accomplished what was at one point unobtainable. I persevered. I worked hard. I gave it my all. I am unbroken. I


Twitter: @BrianBanksFree

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Beyond Me

I remember sitting in a prison cell thinking to myself repeatedly...daily, " I just want to be free. I just want to be normal..." I would say the same thing over and over again to myself when finally home yet still on parole, confined by a GPS tracking device on my ankle, a parole officer who wanted nothing more than to send me back to prison, and a life not mine.

12 days into mini camp with the Atlanta Falcons. I still cant believe I'm here. Still cant believe the possibilities. Yes, still taken back by all that I've experienced. I mean, what a life.  From riots, fights, lockdowns, and strip searches, to defensive schemes with Coach Nolan and Coach Pires, sharing a locker room with Matt Ryan, Sean Weatherspoon, Tony Gonzalez, and Asante Samuel's (the list goes on) wearing the Atlanta Falcons seal. Some may call this a dream come true. I call it a dream almost fulfilled.

Yes, I am here. But I am not there. I wear #53, but still have yet to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. Everything that is in me is in my efforts towards accomplishing what many call the impossible. My heart, my focus, my mind, and will. But there is also fear. I don't fear much at all, but one of my biggest fears in life is failure. Making this team means so much to me. So much to my family. But becoming an Atlanta Falcon is bigger than football. I repeat, this is BIGGER than football. And it is bigger than me. Far beyond me. This is for the forgotten. The hopeless. Those who have forgotten how to be inspired, those who could use a little more.

 I stood in front of over 100 wrongfully convicted men and women in Charlotte, NC.  Most had severed over 15 years behind bars from crimes uncommitted. 20 years. 30 years. And as I stood in front of them, all I could see was lives ruined, time lost, souls forgotten. I began to think of the many others still incarcerated for crimes uncommitted. And all the less fortunate ones of the world.

I think of my mother constantly. And how she sacrificed her home and car for my freedom. My family, that fact that we still struggle even today despite how things may seem.

Making this team brings forth a voice. A statement. Never quit, never give up on your dreams, and never say never. Most of all, a mighty example of a spiritual force that can do any, all, and the impossible byway of faith and belief.

This is beyond me now, I am only but a vessel. The proof is in the supporters, the cheers, the countless well wishes, the prayers from you all.... The fear of failure.

" I just want to be free. I just want to be normal..."

Well, I'm free. God is good. But I guess it's safe to safe I've surpassed normal.


F.E.A.R. - False Evidence Appearing Real

Game 1 vs. CIN Bengals This Thursday. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

My Journey

My hands shake as I type these words. My mind and heart are in a race. This life of mine.... Oh, this life of mine.

It's been almost 11 years since handcuffs were first clasped to my arms. A scared young boy I was. Full of promise and opportunity, light surrounded me. And then, the handcuffs grew tighter, and the light began to fade. Darkness became my environment... Pain, humiliation, and suffering became my enemy. I was 16 years old when the system took me away from my mother. 16 when I stepped into hell.

I watched my mother frantically do all that she possibly could to pull me out of that whole. Her tears fell to my face, and her cries fell short on deff ears as I slipped from her grip further into darkness. We shared each others pain.

Mom, I will forever love you.

I lost 10 years of my life over lies. My freedom, stripped away. My name, slandered, my innocence, replaced.... With rage. I wanted revenge. I wanted Her to suffer. I wanted them ALL to suffer as I did. As my mother and family did. The darkness that surrounded me was now in me.

My faith is what has me here today.  In complete darkness, I saw light. And a choice was presented: Accept this evil and become what is expected of me, or reach for that faint glimmer of light and defy the odds. I chose the impossible, the struggle, the less traveled path. And that light began to brighten. And that brightens began to shine. And darkness became transparent.  As I allowed darkness, rage, and anger to enter, I allowed it to exit. My pain and suffering became my friend, as well as my teacher. I embraced them both, and they know me well.

I stand here today a free man. Hands bruised and bloodied from the climb out hell. Mind and spirit scorned from the experiences. Heart... hardened. I never gave up. With every reach to the sky as I climbed out of that whole, I redirected that hateful energy. And that alone gave me power. What was once anger and revenge is now determination and ambition. Success IS my revenge. The fact that I WILL NOT BREAK is my anger. The smile my mother now has is my assurance.

Tomorrow marks another great day, as I travel back to Flowery Branch, GA. Another great mission, another defying act. The odds are against me... But the odds know me well. And although doubt surrounds me, there is no doubt in my mind, there is no fear in my heart. And as I step onto that field day for training camp, and throughout, I will do it with the mindset of a winner. I went to hell and back, and survived a better man.

I've already won.

-Brian Banks