One of Hamilton's newest high schools will be named for Bernie Custis, a local sports legend, longtime educator and the first black quarterback to play for a professional football team in North America.
Custis's professional career began with the Tiger-Cats in August 1951. He was named an all-star in his first season before moving to running back and eventually winning the Grey Cup with the team in 1953.
It wasn't until 17 years after Custis first took the field that a black quarterback started for a major pro football league in the United States. Marlin Briscoe started five games for the AFL's Broncos in 1968.
Custis went on to become a teacher and principal with the former Wentworth County Board of Education and a coach for the McMaster Marauders, where he spent eight seasons and was named Canadian university football's coach of the year in 1982.
Custis died in 2017 at age 88. CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said in a statement, following Custis's death, that Custis "should be revered as well for being one of our best. A world class athlete, he excelled both as a quarterback and a running back. A tremendous leader, he was a successful coach who had a positive impact on countless young lives. A true gentleman, he brought honour to our game and our league, and provided us with a role model to emulate."
The school board confirmed the new name during a meeting Monday night, with staff saying they're proud to call the building at 1055 King Street East, Bernie Custis Secondary School
"Trustees are honoured to name the new north secondary school after Hamiltonian Bernie Custis, a leader, educator, and trail-blazer, whose achievements crossed borders and whose name will continue to inspire students for generations," said Todd White, chair of the board.
The three-story school will hold up to 1,250 students and includes a unique collaboration with the City of Hamilton that will offer "state-of-the-art physical education opportunities for our students," according to a media release. It's set to open in September 2019.