At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Miami (Fla.) Central standout defensive lineman Bryan Pata began the season with high expectations. And he had everything going for him.
Pata had helped his team to a perfect 5-0 record by winning five games by big margins. He was getting recruited by nearly every major college program in the country, and was playing like he was the state's best defensive linemen. In those first five games, Pata had registered 22 tackles, seven sacks, two caused fumbles, and one blocked punt.
Then Pata was ruled ineligible because of a mistake that someone in administration, not Bryan, had made. Unfortunately, Pata's season was over and Central was forced to forefit its first five games.
Five weeks later, Pata was much happier on Sunday when he learned that his team had made it into the state playoffs with a 5-5 record (10-0 on the field).
"I was so happy for my teammates," Pata said. "They worked so hard all summer and all year to get to this spot. Of course I wish I could be out there with them, but I'm their biggest fan. Just like I said in August, Central's going all the way."
Pata, who was recently selected to play in January's Cali-Florida Bowl, is preparing to take the SAT next month. On the recruiting front, Pata is still widely considered the state's best defensive line prospect.
"I've been running a lot to stay in shape," he said. "I haven't listed as much because it's still like the season. I'll start getting heavy into that after the season. I want a fresh start. I'll be ready and I want to have a strong performance in the all star game to show people what I got. Bring 'em on."
What does he have? He has game that makes him not only one of the state's best prospects, but also one of the nation's best.
"I have four visits set up," he said. "I have Rutgers on December 6, Oklahoma the week after, then Florida, then Miami on January 17. I'm not sure where I'm going to go for my fifth one."
The standout defensive lineman said he still remains high on the Hurricanes.
"Miami's still my top school," he said. "They're my No. 1 choice, but I need to check out these other schools to see what they've got going on. I think I can play early at all of them."
Pata talked more about playing early at Miami.
"They lose their top four ends," he said. "Basically, it's John Wood, John Square, and Thomas Carroll. I think I can go in there and help right away if I work hard enough."
Pata said he was very impressed with Miami's performance against Tennessee on Saturday.
"Man, they went up there and took care of business," he said. "They just keep winning. They're No. 1 for a reason. Now they got some big ones coming up."
Pata said he'll take his four, or five, visits and then make a final decision sometime in January.
"I'm hoping to learn some things on my visits," he said. "I want to see what opportunities are out there and see what happens, but UM's No. 1 right now."
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