Prior to the 2009 football season, head coach June Jones announced that a deserving student-athlete on the team would be chosen to wear the number “23” on his jersey throughout the season to honor Jerry LeVias for his contributions to America, the sport of football and SMU.
LeVias was the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship in the Southwest Conference. At SMU, LeVias made athletic and academic All-America teams and was All-SWC in 1966, 1967 and 1968.
For his heart, good attitude and work ethic, safety Chris Banjo was awarded the number “23” for the 2009 season and retained the honor for 2010 as well. Banjo, a native of Sugar Land, TX, responded in 2009, tallying 86 tackles, one interception, four pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Banjo entered the 2010 season with a heavy heart as his mother, Yinka, died of sickle-cell in anemia in June at age 45. Persevering after this tragedy, Banjo continues to not only be a vital cog on the Mustangs defense, but an inspiration to his teammates as well. “She’s not suffering anymore; she’s not in pain,” he says. “That’s how I keep going. Now I know that she’s finally going to get to see me play.”