WHEN YOU GO 1-11, as the University of Massachusetts football team did last season, your recruiting pitch can focus on:
* The chance to play right away.
* The chance to be part of the rebuilding process.
It was the latter pitch that helped the Minutemen land Sharif Custis, a 6-3, 210-pound tight end from Ss. Neumann-Goretti High.
Custis chose UMass from among several schools, including Temple.
"They were telling me they are trying to rebuild and I know how it feels to be a part of a team that's rebuilding," said Custis, who gave UMass his verbal commitment Dec. 2. "It feels good to turn a program around."
Indeed, he does. Last yaer the Saints enjoyed their first winning season since 2006.
Custis comes from a line of talented, Division I-caliber athletes.
His older brother, Kadeem, was a backup defensive end for Temple.
Younger brother Jamal, a junior wide receiver at Neumann-Goretti, also is expected to sign with a Division I program next year. UMass joins a list of institutions that have interest in him.
"All of us help each other out with whatever we need and we get better from each other," Custis said on being from such an athletic family.
As a freshman, Custis played defensive end.
It wasn't until after his sophomore year, when Neumann-Goretti brought in C.J. Szydlik as the head coach, that Custis moved to the other side of the football as a tight end.
"Before he came, I only played defense," Custis said. "He definitely helped me out on the offensive end. I was running new things every day. I learned a lot more when he came. I became way better than I was."
Custis was very successful on offense, registering seven receiving touchdowns and 289 yards on 11 catches as a junior to earn first-team All-Catholic honors as a multipurpose player.
"Sharif is probably one of the most fascinating athletes you'll ever find," Szydlik said. "He's such a multipurpose player. He makes this game a lot easier to coach.
"On the football field, he's an animal, but in person he's a really genuine, good kid."