NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – From coaches to players the University of New Mexico Lobos and San Diego State football teams have a lot of ties that bind. UNM head football coach Danny Gonzales recruited San Diego State standouts Jordan Byrd and Keshawn Banks to the Aztecs when the two were excelling in the high school ranks in New Mexico. That was when Gonzales was an assistant at San Diego State.
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Now, he has to face the pair at a time when the Lobos are struggling to find a win and the Aztecs are undefeated and nationally ranked. Gonzales is well aware of the talent of both players, especially the speed of Byrd, who as a running back, kick and punt returner, has shown his speed multiple times this season.
“He may be the fastest guy in this league and we got a great league,” said Gonzales. “So, that says volumes. When he touches the ball in kickoff return, he’s scary. He may be more dangerous than Anias Smith from Texas A&M when he catches punts. We got to hang the ball up and get around him because we can make him nervous, but when he catches it he doesn’t need much air.”
Byrd said he is excited to return to Albuquerque for a game and is flattered by the comments of coach Gonzales. “I’m honored by that, especially my recruiter,” said Byrd. “So I’m honored by that, especially what he said about me. That’s good.” Byrd starred as quarterback for Manzano High School and led them to a state championship in 2017.
During the same time, Keshawn Banks was terrorizing opponents as a member of the Rio Rancho Rams defensive line. Banks has grown into an all-conference honorable mention selection. He credits Rocky Long for some of his success. Long, a former Lobos and San Diego State head coach is the current defensive coordinator at New Mexico.
“He helped me develop as a player and as a young man, as far as getting better and being mentally and physically tough,” said Banks. “He’s a great coach, like I said, but he’s not coaching the Aztecs. He’s coaching the Lobos. So, we’ll see what happens Saturday.” The game will probably have an awkward feel for Gonzales, Long and Aztecs head coach Brady Hoke. All three were coaches at San Diego State.
“I don’t like playing against friends,” said Hoke. “I mean I never have. It’s not fun and it’s not fun for wives. I can tell you that depending on especially how friendly you are.”
In other sports news, Dontrell Moore is in Van Tate’s Sports Office. Moore stopped by to talk about his upcoming induction into the UNM Ring of Honor Oct. 16.
Meanwhile, New Mexico United returns to the pitch tonight when they host Hartford. With six games to play New Mexico remains in fourth place in the USL Championship Western Conference Mountain Division. The top four from each conference make the postseason.
Lastly, UNM women’s soccer will take an eight-game winning streak on the road this weekend. The Lobos are at Nevada Friday and UNLV Sunday. The defending Mountain West champion Lobos are 9-2 overall and 4-0 in league play.