Lovejoy relying on senior Zion Custis on and off the field

By Luke Strickland

LOVEJOY — Zion Custis is ready for football season.

The talented Lovejoy High running back has never really been into other sports. In the storied Custis’ household, football is king.

“It’s really football all around. That’s our love for the Custis family,” he said. “That’s what we grew up in, what we came from and just our way of living. Sometimes I’ll go play basketball, I’ll do a little bit of baseball but it’s not football.”

Custis has established himself as one of the top running backs in the metro area over the last two seasons. As a junior in 2016, he rushed for 1,487 yards and 12 touchdowns while helping the Wildcats advance to the Class AAAAAA Sweet 16. Custis rushed for 921 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore.

“This is my last high school season, it’s been a good four years,” Custis said. “It hit me, I want to say when our first summer practice started. It just felt like, man this is it. This is the last year.”

His final year at Lovejoy comes with increased expectations. Gone are the likes of John Seter, Marquese Taylor, Tre’mond Shorts and Jayden Thomas — players who took on a bulk of the leadership responsibilities for the team.

“Zion, this year he’s going to have to step up and be more of a leader,” head coach Edgar Carson said. “I know he’s going to do a good job running the ball but I need him more mentally now staying on his teammates and pushing them. Coaches can push them but we don’t play. We need leadership out of those guys.”

Custis said he’s begun making the transition to the leader of the Wildcats this summer, using workouts and 7-on-7’s to bond with his teammates.

“I have been talking to my teammates,” he said. “They are buying into what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to go far, make it to state. They are buying into what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.”

This won’t be the the first time Lovejoy will be relying heavily on a member of the Custis family. Recently, Travis and Montrell earned Division I scholarships, while several other members of the family have gone on to play at the next level.

Custis has already made his mark at Lovejoy, but he’ll undoubtedly want to live up to his family name one last time.

“I think about it sometimes. Me being the youngest, I have to carry a legacy out,” he said. “But I try not to think about it if I can but sometimes it’s in the back of my mind.”

Custis has received interest from a handful of college programs, and is excited to see what opportunities arise during his senior season.

“Recruiting for me has picked up,” he said. “It’s been great, I’m trying to be patient. My dad always tells me you’re going to know when it’s your time. I try to take what he says.”

As a team, the Wildcats impressed last season, battling injuries to advance to the Class AAAAAA Sweet 16. With Custis returning, the program is poised to reach the state playoffs once again.

“I’ve been here now for I think this is my seventh year, I’m trying to make sure we get these kids in schools and just continue the Lovejoy tradition that we’ve had,” Carson said. “I thought we could have gotten over the hump last season, but injuries kind of hurt us against Dalton. We’re just going to continue to move forward and get better.”