Sumter's Next Generation, presented by CCTC: Wilson Hall's Slade Custer doubles as athlete, actor to show true passion knows no bounds


For Wilson Hall's Slade Custer, the electric roar of a crowd underneath the academy's football stadium lights following an impressive sack comes second to none.

However, the resounding applause and cheers the high school senior never thought he would be on the receiving end of was sourced from an audience of a theater production -- and he learned to love it.

Crossing the Barons' threshold for the first time his freshman year, Slade seemed destined for a life defined by sports. That is, until an unexpected opportunity opened a new stage for him to compete on within the world of theater. Despite his initial hesitation, he made the choice to audition for "Shrek Jr.: The Musical" last year and, to his surprise, landed the role of the humorous Donkey.

As Slade immersed himself in the theatrics, he discovered a newfound passion and resilience in learning lines and executing vocal warmups. He embraced the experience wholeheartedly, realizing that the lessons he learned on the field -- like the benefits of failure and perseverance to keep going -- were equally applicable to the manila oak stage.

"Going into this, I was like, 'I'll be so great for this role. Everything will be perfect,' and then I get to the lines and doing some of the songs, and I realize it's tough," Slade expressed. "The director will say you're not doing this right, you need to do this in a different way, and at first, you're like, 'I'm trying.' But you got to realize, they're trying to help you and that failure is going to happen. You have to learn how to overcome that and not have a fear of it. Once you accept it, you can start to fix those mistakes like you do on the field, whether it's missing a blocking assignment or not make the tackle fully. It's something that translates really heavily to theater, and you got to be able to brush it off and fix those mistakes, and that's how you can truly grow with everything."

Like any good group of friends, some lighthearted jokes about his new hobby were bound to happen. Slade, always looking to seize the opportunity, impressed his dedication and enthusiasm for theater on to his friends. He not only found himself with new actors to star alongside in this year's production of "Music Man Jr.", where he landed the lead role of Professor Harold Hill, but also bridging the gap between social circles and showcasing among his peers, friends and teammates how it's possible to pursue multiple passions.

"They said thank you to me, to everybody for getting them out there and doing it, and it really shows you to not have such a specific state of mind; broaden your horizon and open your eyes to everything. You can love everything if you just look at it in that way."

Looking past graduation and missing the family environment Wilson Hall exudes, Slade will retire his baby-blue polo for one of garnet and black as he attends University of South Carolina in Columbia to major in business administration. While sports will always hold a special place in his heart, he's open to exploring new opportunities, including participating in the university's theater program.

With each toss of the Baron-branded football, baseball, you name it, Slade did the same with caution, throwing it to the wind and embracing where it led him. Whether it be the green grass on the playing field or the soft creaks of the oak floorboards on stage, Slade proved true passion knows no bounds.