April 30, 2012
DALLAS (SMU) - Mustang sophomore-to-be Stephon Sanders has been awarded the number "23" for the 2012 season, Head Coach June Jones announced Saturday, April 28, at the SMU Football Celebration.
Prior to the 2009 season, Jones announced that a deserving student-athlete on the SMU football team would be chosen to wear the number "23" on his jersey to honor Jerry LeVias for his contributions to America, the sport of football and SMU.
When LeVias started as an end for SMU in a September 24, 1966, game against Illinois, he forever changed the Southwest Conference. LeVias was the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship in the SWC. Born in Beaumont, Texas, Jerry had played quarterback for Hebert High School. He was small (5-9, 177 lbs.), but made up for it with his great speed, as evidenced in three touchdown runs of over 70 yards each in a 21-8 victory over rival Booker T. Washington. At SMU, LeVias made athletic and academic All-America teams and contributed to the Mustangs' first SWC title in 18 years. He still holds three SMU records as a receiver - 15 passes caught in one game (Ohio State, 1968), 213 yards in one game (N.C. State, 1968) and 1,131 yards receiving in a season (1968). He was a consensus All-American in 1968 and was chosen All-SWC in 1966, 1967, and 1968. Considered too small for the NFL, LeVias became one of the most exciting players in Houston Oilers history. He caught 41 passes for 529 yards and five touchdowns in 1970 and also returned 25 punts for 213 yards and 26 kickoffs for 596 yards. LeVias set the AFL record in his rookie year for combined punt and kickoff returns with 73 in one season. He caught an AFL-long 86-yard touchdown pass in 1969 and added a 63 yarder in 1970. He was traded to San Diego in 1971 and led the Chargers with 30 catches for 536 yards in 1973. He played for the Chargers through the 1974 season.
Sanders earned a starting job as a true freshman and recorded 26 tackles, 5.5 for-loss, and three sacks.
SMU safety Chris Banjo, the first "23" recipient, has worn the number for the past three seasons.