Check out Zion Custis’ highlight video:
By Gabriel Stovall
LOVEJOY, Ga. — Football season at Lovejoy High School is over, but for Zion Custis it never ends.
Not when you play for what was not too long ago considered one of the emerging programs in Georgia’s biggest classification.
Also, not when you have a name like Custis.
The sophomore running back is the latest in a long line of Lovejoy stars who bare the family name.
Most recently, Southern Crescent football fans would remember Travis Custis. The record-setting Lovejoy tailback ran past most of NFL running back and former Georgia Tech star Tashard Choice’s school records while leading the Wildcats to back-to-back Class AAAAAA championship games.
Then there’s his older brother Montrell Custis who starred at safety. He’s now a freshman at Ole Miss. Not to mention about a half dozen others who have come through the program in the last 10 years, and Zion’s cousin Meshael Custis — a 6-foot-2 defensive back who will be bouncing back from an ACL injury next year as a senior.
To be sure, Zion is not playing second fiddle to any of his talented family members either.
Lovejoy’s season ended last week in a 34-3 loss to Newnan in the first round of the state playoffs, but Custis’ year concluded on a high note.
The second-year player finished his 2015 campaign with 921 rushing yards on 101 carries with 10 rushing touchdowns. All told, he accumulated over 1,000 all-purpose yards and earned first-team All-Region 2-AAAAAA honors, validating the expectations of talent scouts who called Zion Custis a player to watching during summer workouts.
But Zion will tell you that while the stats are nice, his focus this past season was simply on becoming the best team player he could be.
“I feel like I’ve been playing very well this year, and just contributing to my team and doing my best on the field,” he said. “Everything I can do for them, I try to do it.”
This season, that “everything” included working even when the schedule dictated he should’ve been resting. During Lovejoy’s bye week, Custis spent his time working out in his home gym trying to get an edge.
“I’m just a very hard working kid, and very competitive,” Zion Custis said. “I’m a very competitive player with a chip on my shoulder.”
And he’s not afraid to acknowledge that part of that chip is comprised of the residue of success that has come from his football famous family.
“Growing up in an athletic family like mine, as the youngest you learn from them a lot,” he said. “We’re always going at it, man. Racing and trying to see who’s fastest. We’re competitive but it’s great. It just makes me want to keep going and striving to make me better.”
Then there’s the other part of the chip — his stature. Custis is generously listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. He’s probably a little smaller than that, but he doesn’t run like it. He has shown a penchant for being able to bounce to the outside with speed and find the tough yards between tackles with toughness.
For that reason, he prides himself, he says, on being an all-around, every-down back.
“I’m just trying to prove that just because I’m small, it doesn’t mean anything, and that I can compete on the next level,” he said.
It appears the next level is paying attention.
In addition to copious letters from a gaggle of NCAA Div. I and Div. II schools, he got invited to Saturday’s Ole Miss-LSU game, and he’ll be at tenting the annual Iron Bowl matchup between Auburn and Alabama in two weeks.
And although schools can’t really get too aggressive in contacting him yet, the youngest Custis already has a trio of schools he hopes to attract attention from.
“Miami, Georgia and Ole Miss in no particular order,” Zion Custis said. “It’s early, so of course it could change. Georgia is close to home. Ole Miss, of course where my brother played. And Miami, I just always used to like them back in the day when they wore them crop top jerseys and were like the best in college football.”
In the meantime, he’s not working with any shortage of confidence in terms of his ability to round himself into a Div. I caliber performer.
“To be honest with you, there’s nothing really I’d change about my game,” he said. “I just want to get better at what I can do. As a running back, I feel like I do it all. You’ve just gotta see for yourself, man.”