I just wanted to point quickly to Peter King's MMQB column this morning because there were a few interesting tidbits in there about Brian Banks and his tryout with the Seahawks. At this point, with the signing of Kyle Knox and Banks' impending tryouts with several more teams, it's not looking like Seattle will be signing him - John Schneider even mentioned in his interview with Doug Farrar and Rob Rang on Saturday that Banks' likely starting point to get into the League might be to break into a team's practice squad mid-season. Get to a point where he's in better shape and as clubs shuffle their personnel there, players will get hurt or go to the I.R., and someone will need to take up spots. All that notwithstanding, away from the curiosity and buzz created on how he'd look as a player, someone finally asked Banks the question I've been sort of morbidly curious to hear about, and that is - how he managed to survive in prison as a convicted rapist. Peter King didn't shy away from the subject.
Per King: "I asked Banks: "Isn't prison tough on sex offenders? How'd you survive?''
Banks replied. "I am a very honest person. Ask those who know me. But I lied about why I was in there. That's the way I survived. Three things that there's zero tolerance for in prison -- child molesters, rapists, thieves. So I just told everybody I was in prison for a home invasion. I took the rap for a guy because I wouldn't snitch on him, and through the grace of God, I never got found out.''
To me, that paragraph just puts into perspective what Banks has been through - yes, he lost five years of valuable development time to learn his craft, a chance to play college football for USC (or other major programs he'd been offered by), a very good shot at making millions playing in the NFL - but his day-to-day survival in prison as a convicted rapist had to have been at the forefront of his mind each and every day. Everything else was ancillary. Five years of that. That's the craziest part about this whole story, in my mind. That's character building.
The fact that Pete Carroll was the first to call him is unsurprising, but also pretty damn cool. King recreates that moment in MMQB:
"Three days after he was declared innocent in May, his cell phone rang. The phone had been ringing steadily, and Banks didn't answer. A minute later, the same 213 area code number came up on his caller ID. Banks answered it.
"I'm looking for a linebacker,'' said a voice he didn't recognize. "Know where I can find one?''
"Who is this?'' Banks said.
So why do I find the fact that Pete Carroll was the first to call - which is no insignificant thing in my mind -unsurprising? Well, frankly, it's because Carroll has been doing stuff like that for years. One part of Carroll's tenure down at USC that goes under the radar a bit was his work with inner city youth through the program he created, A Better LA. In case you're not familiar with it - and I'm not really all that familiar with the program either - according to the LA Times, "A Better LA, which Carroll helped found in 2003, runs a broad array of programs, such as job development courses, counseling services and "moonlight" basketball games where men from South L.A., Watts and Compton -- many of them rival gang members -- compete in safe gyms. The organization funds dozens of outreach and intervention workers who have been credited with contributing to a discernible decline in gang violence and homicides."
As part of that program, and part of his personal philosophy that calls for Banishing Fear from every aspect of your life, Carroll would make it a habit to just head out into the neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles. As J.R. Moehringer recollects in a column from 2007 shortly after he'd ridden along with Carroll and his driver Bo Taylor, "Along the way Taylor tells me that he and Carroll do this often. They make late-night journeys through the dicey precincts of Los Angeles. Alone, unarmed, they cruise the desolate, impoverished, crime-ridden streets, meeting as many people (mostly young men) as possible. The mission: Let them know that someone busy, someone famous, someone well known for winning, is thinking about them, rooting for them. The young men have hard stories, grim stories, about their everyday lives, and at the very least Carroll's visit gives them a different story to tell tomorrow. Carroll says: "Somebody they would never think would come to them and care about them and worry about them-did. I think it gives them hope."
Moehringer continues, "Few fans of USC, Carroll concedes, know that he spends his nights this way. He's not sure he wants them to know. He's not sure he wants anyone to know. I ask what his wife of 31 years, Glena, thinks of these excursions. He doesn't answer. (Days later Glena tells me with a laugh that she doesn't worry about Carroll driving around L.A., but she drew the line when he mentioned visiting Baghdad.)"
To me - whether or not you like Carroll's coaching style or football schemes or personnel grading system or just his general his outlook on football, it's tough not to like his personality and outlook on life. He's certainly got an infectious enthusiasm and the more I read about him and learn about him, the more I realize he seriously, actually, lives his philosophy every day, whether it pertains to football or not. He's Big Balls Pete, mostly because he developed a habit of going for it on fourth down in tight situations while at USC, but hearing and reading stories about some of the things he's done off the field kind of makes you realize he's earned that nickname in more ways than one.
As it pertains to this blog though, you probably care more about the football side of things, and I don't blame you. For that, I think it's apparent that Carroll does try and apply his personal philosophy on life to the football teams he's coaching. Per Moehringer, "Carroll gave up fear long ago. He gave it up the way people give up carbs. Fear now has no part in his daily life. Fear is like an old, distant friend. They know each other well, talk once in a while, but they're not close like they used to be. In meetings, practices, pre-game talks, fear is Carroll's theme. "That's what we're all about," he says, lying back on the leather sofa in his office one night. "Our entire approach is to come to the point where we have the knowing that we're going to win. There's nothing to stop us but ourselves. To do that is to operate in the absence of fear.""
Playing in the absence of fear is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to the former sports psychology major's coaching points - but it's one of the most important as it applies to recent events. Some people might think the whole Brian Banks tryout was just a publicity stunt or a piece of charity for a guy that had a lot of bad luck, but I really do think Carroll was inspired by Banks and his personal strength and bravery, and thought that Banks could inspire the people around him based on his incredible outlook on life and strength in character. At this point - he's playing in the absence of fear and just going out there and giving it his best shot. You've heard all the interviews and seen the documentary footage - it's apparent. It makes all the sense in the world that the Seahawks would host the guy because he personifies a lot of Carroll's core beliefs.