Football: Old-School FlairChristian Custer is a blast from the past and the 2012 Republican Eagle All-Area Player of the Year.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
Christian Custer is a blast from the past.
The Lake City senior is an undersized defensive end at 6-foot-2 and less than 200 pounds who loves smash-mouth football, competes on both sides of the ball and enjoys sporting his tiger-colored Zubaz.
Lake City head tennis coach Dave Toole gave a pair of Zubaz to Custer, the team’s No. 1 singles player, during a cold match in the spring.
Custer liked them so much that Toole brought two more pairs.
“I definitely wore them in practice some days,” Custer said last week. “In fact, I’m wearing a pair right now. I wore them to school today.”
Custer fits the mold of old-school football, and getting there took a helping of time-honored hard work. Custer was shaped into the player he is today by attending workouts from 6:30 to 8 a.m. four days a week for the last three summers.
“The thing that stands out was how hard he worked to put himself in that situation,” Lake City head football coach Trevor Narum said. “I’ve never seen a kid more committed than him. He made himself a lot better, a lot stronger, a lot more explosive. He worked really hard to make himself a dominant player.”
Lake City’s offense may have finished second in Class 3A in scoring at 42.3 points per game on the way to the Section 1AAA title game, but it was Custer’s ability on the defensive side of the ball — helping defensive coordinator Rob Nutt lead the Tigers (9-2) to becoming the 14th-best scoring defense in Class 3A at 18.1 points per game — which makes him the 2012 Republican-Eagle All-Area Player of the Year.
“I haven’t had the chance to coach someone that dominant defensively,” Narum said. “He had unbelievable stats there. From a consistency standpoint, Christian was our most consistently dominant player every single game.
“He had a tremendous impact,” Narum added. “The pressure he was able to put on the quarterback, but he was equally effective against the running game. He was equally as good against either type of team.”
Custer’s statistics this year speak to his impact on Lake City’s defense. He made 74 solo tackles and 32 assisted tackles for a team-leading 106 total tackles. He also led the Tigers with 12 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks playing in a Hiawatha Valley Conference consisting of mostly running teams. Custer forced one fumble, had two fumble recoveries and blocked a kick.
“It’s a big attitude thing on defense,” Custer said. “You have to have the attitude that you’re going to kick the other guy’s butt. I felt like we had that attitude all year. … Our offense was great, but that’s because our defense went out there and stopped them so we got the ball back. Our defense was just as big of a part as the offense was.”
Custer was confident in his preparation and technique.
“I was a smaller lineman so I was faster,” he said. “Sometimes watching on film, the other guy might be a little bigger, but I always thought I could have a better attitude than him. I used speed to get around the edge or the strength that I had and the technique Coach Nutt gave me. If I used them correctly, I could get the job done.”
At Lake City’s end of the year banquet, the team also honored Custer by naming him Defensive MVP.
“I think they credited me and I felt like I deserved it because I worked my butt off in the off season in the weight room for three years,” Custer said.
Custer’s biggest games this season came against Winona Cotter, the most pass-happy team in the HVL. During the sixth week of the regular season, Custer overpowered the Ramblers, racking up 13 solo tackles, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks as the Tigers won 47-9. He added seven more tackles and a sack against Cotter in the second round of the Section 1AAA tournament.
“I remember both Cotter games,” Narum said. “I think their QB will remember him.”
“I didn’t always get the sack, but I definitely hit him every time I had the chance,” Custer added.
In the section finals against top-ranked Rochester Lourdes, Custer made his usual impact on defense, finishing with 13 total tackles, but he also caught four passes for 51 yards.
“For me personally, I remember his Lourdes game,” Narum said. “He broke out as an offensive player that night. … Offensively, he didn’t have a lot of stats but that’s because we didn’t throw him the ball a lot.”
Custer ended the season with 11 receptions for 195 yards and one touchdown as the team’s starting tight end, but he also played an integral role in helping Elliot Cox, Will Balow and Mitch Kuchinka each gain more than 600 yards rushing. He helped seal and open rushing lanes for the many sweep running plays that Lake City employs.
Next year, Custer said he would like to play football for Division II Winona State or Division I South Dakota State, a member of the Football Championship Series.
“I feel like I could go out and play. I have the work ethic to do it,” said Custer, who wants to study engineering.
Custer is the first Lake City player to win R-E Player of the Year, but Narum hopes his impact will mean more Tigers earn the nomination in the future.
“He’s a coach’s dream,” Narum said. “Christian’s done things the right way. I think it’s a tremendous honor for Christian himself and our school. It’s good for our program and it’s good for our kids.
“Maybe it’s something for our younger kids to shoot for,” Narum added. “‘I want to be R-E Player of the Year like Christian Custer was.’”