There’s a legend living at Appleby Place in
Burlington, Ontario: Bernie Custis, who in 1951
became pro football’s first African-American
starting quarterback.
Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in
Philadelphia, Bernie was a star quarterback at
Syracuse University. In 1951, the Cleveland
Browns drafted him. But no African-American
had ever played quarterback in the NFL. The
head coach asked him to switch positions.
Feeling confident in his abilities, Bernie refused.
The Browns released himand he went on to sign
with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. “I didn’t
find any prejudice against me in Hamilton, just
As quarterback, Bernie was the Tiger-Cats’
biggest attraction. He was an All-Star, later
excelled as a running back, and in 1953 he
helped Hamilton win the 41
Grey Cup. “It was
the ultimate,” he says 60 years later.
After his playing days, Bernie began a 37-year
career as an educator. He was also one of the
most successful coaches in Canadian amateur
football, at Sheridan College (six provincial
championships) and McMaster University.
Bernie was ahead of his time, paving the way for
many African-American quarterbacks to come,
and making his mark in coaching. In 1994, he
was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall
of Fame. We’re proud to have this pioneer and
humble superstar in the Revera family.
The story of Bernie Custis
Winning the Grey Cup
was the ultimate”
Bernie Custis lives at
Revera – Appleby Place
in Burlington, Ontario