2013 Inductee – BERNIE CUSTIS – Football Athlete and Builder

Bernie Custis is a former American and Canadian football player who went on to a distinguished coaching career. He is known for being the first black professional quarterback in the modern era and first in professional Canadian football, starting for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Interprovincial Rugby Football Union (Big Four) in 1951. He was both a quarterback and running back with the Tiger-Cats until 1954, prior to playing for Ottawa in 1955 and 1956.

He was a Grey Cup Winner with the Cats in 1953.

Custis was a star quarterback at Syracuse University from 1948 to 1950, setting numerous records that would last for decades.

Following his playing days Custis started a career as a teacher and principal and coached the East York, Oakville and Burlington Juniors.

From 1973 he won six straight Eastern titles with Sheridan College.

Custis then spent 8 years at McMaster University, starting in 1981 and took them from 7th to 1st place.

Individual Honours:

  • OUAA Coach of the Year (1982,1984)
  • CIAU Coach of the Year (1982)
  • College All-Star Coach (1975, 1977, 1978)
  • Inducted McMaster Athletic Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Inducted Canadian Football Hall of Fame as Builder (1998)
  • Inducted Syracuse University Athletic Hall of Fame (1977)
  • Interprovincial Rugby Football Union All-Star Running Back (1954)
  • Interprovincial Rugby Football Union All-Star Quarterback (1951)