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His name cleared, man pines for NFL future

It's frustrating enough watching a TV show or movie where a person is framed for a crime they did not commit. But can you even imagine if it really happened to you?

Brian Banks can. Banks was a 16-year-old high school football star from Long Beach, Calif., when he was wrongfully accused of rape by a 15-year-old classmate. He went from being a heavily-recruited linebacker to a kid in police custody in the blink of an eye.

On the advice of an attorney who said a jury wouldn't believe claims of innocence by a hulking black teenager, Banks plead guilty and spent the next five years of his life behind bars. When he was released, he was required to register as a sex offender and wear a electronic tracking bracelet.

Things changed when Banks' accuser, Wanetta Gibson, contacted him on Facebook and -- incredibly -- told him she wanted to let “bygones be bygones.”

“I stopped what I was doing,” he told Sporting News, “and got down on my knees and prayed to God to help me play my cards right.”

Banks set up a series of meetings with Gibson and convinced her to help him clear his name. The catch was that Gibson wouldn't talk to prosecutors out of fear she'd lose the $1.5 million settlement she received after suing the school district for failing to provide a safe environment. (Related note: This woman is the worst.)

Undaunted, Banks secretly recorded their conversations and attorneys took the evidence back to the original judge. At Thursday’s hearing, his record and name were cleared.

“I haven’t smiled like this in 10 years,” he tweeted Friday morning. “I’m FREE.”

Banks still has the dream to play in the NFL. It's a longshot, but Banks has already overcome far greater odds in getting back the life that should've never been taken from him in the first place.

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