Cato grows more mature
Four little eyes.
Watching their daddy.
Every step he takes. Every move he makes. Every day he wakes.
Is it any wonder Rakeem Cato has changed?
Marshall's star quarterback has been noticeably different recently. He acts different, plays different and looks different.
Cato still wears No. 12, but he doesn't act that age anymore. Remember the pouting, the tirades, the berating of teammates?
They have vanished while Cato has matured markedly during the last few months of the 2013 season. A calmer, gentler man has taken that immature guy's place.
Those four little eyes.
Two daughters are watching their daddy now.
"That has to be a factor," said Cato. "I just do it for them. I wake up every morning and I know I have to eat, got to go to school, got to perfect that, got to come here and play great football, got to perfect that and I have two kids watching their daddy.
"So, I have to be successful. I've got to make them my business and become successful so they don't want for anything."
Cato feels that motivation every time he looks into the eyes of one-year old Jaela and four-month old Chloe.
"It feels great," said the 6-foot-1, 188-pound junior. "Just knowing I have two kids of my own, watching me. I've got to be on my P's and Q's all the time.
"I've got to make sure I'm doing everything right. I've got to make sure I'm setting my standards high for them. I've got to be a father-figure for them."
And how does he go about that?
"Just going hard every day and not taking life for granted," said Cato. "Waking up with a smile on my face. ... to be blessed. Just playing the game I love and understanding the sacrifice that had to get me here right now.
"I'm just blessed. Blessed to be here. Blessed to be in this moment. Thank God."
And thank his mother, Juannese, who died when Cato was only 13 years old.
"I just do it all for my mom," he said. "It's all for her. I know if she were here right now, she'd be smiling. So, I just do it all for her. Every time I do something, I just do it all for her."
She'd be proud of her son, Rakeem, and his newfound maturity.
"I do feel like I've gotten more mature," said Cato, who will return to his native Miami, Fla., to lead the Herd against FIU at 6 p.m. Saturday. "Me and Chad (former MU star quarterback Chad Pennington) have a great connection. We talk a lot just about life. He talks to me and helps me grow as a man. Not only as a football player, but as a man."
And, now, as a father.
"I have two kids who I have to look out for," said Cato. "So, I'm just trying to be the best man I can be. I have great role models and father figures around me.
"As far as the coaching staff, there's Coach Legg (offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Bill Legg) and Coach Holliday (head coach Doc Holliday). They've been doing a great job helping me with things. I'm just feeding off them. They're great men.
"So, why not follow my coaches? Someone who I truly trust and I truly love."
Yes, indeed, Cato has matured.
It's there in his words. It's there in his deeds. It's there in his demeanor.
But, mostly, it's because he realizes somebody special is watching.
Four little eyes.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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