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If anyone truly understood what John Brantley went through last season, it is Marquis Robins-Cato.
Much like the transition the former Florida Gators quarterback made in going from an Urban Meyer spread-option to the pro-style sets employed by Charlie Weis, Cato made the same switch when James Thomson was hired to replace Ryan Smith at Gainesville High School following the 2010 campaign.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Cato said there were some initial growing pains, but nothing that was unexpected or overwhelming.
"It was a whole new offense," said Cato of his first year as the Hurricanes' varsity starter, but his third in GHS's program. "My role was different, and we were asked to do different things than we were under Coach Smith.
"But I did end up getting very comfortable."
That showed on the field, as Cato threw for 2,102 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions while leading the Hurricanes to a 10-3 record in a season that ended with a heartbreaking 17-14 loss at eventual state champion Seffner Armwood in the FHSAA Class 6A, Region 2 final.
Only nationally ranked Las Vegas Bishop Gorman played the undefeated Hawks that close, losing 20-17 in the season opener - a game Armwood led 20-3 in the fourth quarter and travelled across the country to play. By contrast, GHS took a 14-0 lead on Armwood in the first period and led 14-10 in the final quarter.
"That was the toughest loss I have ever been a part of," Cato said. "We let it slip away."
Cato acknowledged that defeat continues to stick with him, but he vows to use the experience as motivation for 2012, his senior year.
"All of us in my class know how to win, and the Armwood game taught us how to handle losing," Cato said. "We believe that can help us next season."
Cato said the Hurricanes have graduated to the point where winning the state championship is a reasonable goal. And, on a personal level, he said he would like to raise his completion percentage from 55 to 70 while passing for 3,000 yards.
Doing that no doubt would add to the college attention he has begun to receive. And so will his plans for the next few months.
Cato said he is hoping to camp at Florida, Florida State, South Florida, Central Florida and perhaps Florida International this summer, and from July 19-21, he and Hurricanes' speedy wideout Chris Thompson will participate in the invitation-only Football University (FBU) Top Gun Camp in Williamsburg, Va.
At this point, Cato said he doesn't have any scholarship offers, but he has gotten to spend some time with members of the coaching staff at USF, courtesy of an introduction made by former GHS standout Chris Bivins, a member of the Bulls' 2012 recruiting class. Additionally, Ball State, which signed former Hurricane Otis Brown (a recent transfer to Evangel University) To a national letter of intent in 2009, has expressed some early interest in Cato.
However, if all works out the way he hopes, Cato, who has been clocked at 4.9 in the 40 and can sling a football 55 yards, will ink with an in-state school.
"I'd like to be able to stay close to home, but I would be happy anywhere i get the opportunity," Cato said.
And his dream destination?
"I probably would say UF," Cato said. "I grew up in Gainesville, and there aren't many in my situation who wouldn't want to be a Gator."