"I taught me that anything can be taken away from you," he said. "Just keep working hard and don't stop believing. Don't stop achieving. I still worked hard every day. I still gave the first-team defense great looks in practice. I just kept learning until my number was called again."
And when coaches called his number again, after Graham hurt his shoulder against Tulsa, he was ready. He led the Herd to three straight wins to close the season, including a Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl win over Florida International University. And this season he's at or near the top of the Football Bowl Subdivision rankings in every major passing category - first in total passing yards (2,651), passing yards per game (378.71) and completions per game (35.57), second in total offense per game (384.86 yards), fifth in touchdown passes (21) and 25th in passing efficiency (148.87).
Shuler said Cato, his friend and teammate since the sixth grade, didn't let the demotion defeat him. In fact, it made him better.
"That made him realize that he needed to be thankful for what he got and to be humble," Shuler said."That's a lesson he learned and he embraced it."
Cato learned to hone his trademark fire and energy into focus and intensity and to keep a cooler head when games go awry. Sixth-year guard John Bruhin has seen Cato mature in a short time and become one of Marshall's leaders.
"All the experiences he's gone through always help a quarterback grow, even those periods where it's not going your way," he said. "But all those experiences build up and make Cato what he is today. He kept his head on strong and everyone pushed and stayed behind him, and he's become a great quarterback."
Now Cato gets the Knights on his home turf, and his teammates would love to see him continue his torrid passing streak.
"I hope he comes out this week and has an excellent performance," defensive end Alex Bazzie said.
"Just to prove to that team, specifically, that last year was last year and it won't be the same this year."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.