Miami-Dade County has produced some of the top high school football players the state and nation has ever seen. Recent history has shown that the state's south region is still generating top-notch football talent with the emergence of Central (Miami)
quarterback Rakeem Cato
Cato, one of the best quarterbacks in Dade County history, has etched his name in the record books this season, while making the Rockets viable contenders for the Class 6A state championship. The standout senior has led the Rockets to an 8-1 record, while setting all-time county records for passing yardage (8,403), completions (535) and touchdown passes (94). When asked about the accolades, Cato humbly replied, "it's cool."
"The records are nice but if my play on the field doesn't help us win a state championship then, to me, the records don't mean much," he added.
After a tough 45-42 loss to Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.)
in the season-opener, the Rockets, who are averaging 46 points per game, have gone on to win eight straight games while outscoring their opponents 46-9 throughout that stretch.
So far this season, Cato has completed 145 of 213 passes for 1,994 yards and 21 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Despite his accomplishments throughout his career, Cato feels that it's not so much his talent that is the blessing but rather those who have helped mold it.
"God has blessed me with a great coaching staff throughout my career and a great O-Line," he says. "I'm thankful for the talent that I was given, but the coaches I've played for and the players that they have put around me have helped make me the player I am today."
Who he is today is a strong testament to his character on and off the field. Cato, the fifth of seven children, grew up amidst the drug and violence of Scott Projects in Liberty City, Fla. His father has been in jail all of his life and his mother passed away in 2005 from pneumonia, which led to him be raised by his older siblings and family members.
"What I went through in my life is why I play the way I do," he said. "My mother is my motivation and every time I step on the field, I have a chip on my shoulder. She taught us to work hard and that's what I try and live by every day of my life."
As a result of his stellar play, Cato, who has verbally committed to Florida International University, has been receiving more interest from Division I programs including Marshall and Cincinnati, but insists that his commitment to the Golden Panthers is "solid."
"FIU is a good fit for me," he added. "I like the coaching staff and I know a lot of the players, so the move would be pretty easy."
Before Cato can give more thought to his collegiate career, he still has unfinished business as a Rocket. As a result of his play, the program is confident that he can lead them to a state championship.
"With Cato on the field, we know we have a chance," said Central's Assistant Athletic Director, and former receivers coach, Alonzo Boykin. "He keeps the guys poised and encouraged. Given his past, he has been able to handle adversity very well and since his first game, against Camden County, he has been our leader."
Despite his skills, Cato, who is the team's chaplain, remains humble and yearns to improve on "speed and staying away from the deep ball." He is glad that he chose Central and having his top receiver, Tommy Shuler, transfer with him made it an easier transition. His favorite route to throw is a curl and Shuler has been the main beneficiary of it.
"Having Tommy with me is a blessing," he said. "We've played together since we were 10 years old at Gwen Cherry Park. Central has one of the best coaching staffs I have ever played for. They give 100 percent all the time whether in practice, a game or the weight room. Everyone wanted to win here, which is why I chose to transfer. Hopefully our talents, along with their winning mentality, can help us win a state title."