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Cusano was on the outside looking south when he found Greer

OPINION

By John Clayton, Staff Reporter
Published on Thursday, November 12, 2015

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Mario Cusano came to Greer to take care of his grandmother. He is 34-3 in three seasons as Greer High School quarterback.
 

Julie McCombs

Mario Cusano came to Greer to take care of his grandmother. He is 34-3 in three seasons as Greer High School quarterback.

 



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This season, the dual-threat quarterback has accounted for more than 2,700 yards.

Julie McCombs

This season, the dual-threat quarterback has accounted for more than 2,700 yards.



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The Yellow Jackets completed back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons for the first time in school history and have won three straight Region II-3A championships.

Julie McCombs

The Yellow Jackets completed back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons for the first time in school history and have won three straight Region II-3A championships.



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Mario Cusano was the outsider, the new kid from someplace in the Northeast.

That was three years and more than 5,000 passing yards ago, and things have changed for Greer's quarterback, who has all-star numbers if not all-star status.

He is no longer the outsider, he's home.

After every game – the vast majority of them Yellow Jacket victories – Cusano is surrounded by friends, family and fans. "My family is at every game," he said. "We usually have about 15 people coming to each game."

But when Cusano moved to Greer from Plainville, Conn., to help his ailing grandmother, he came alone. 

"At first, I was the new guy," he said. "I didn't have any friends and no family other than my grandmother, so it was a relief to have all of my family here."

The Cusano family followed soon enough, moving some 800 miles south, following Mario into a new culture, a new pace and a new life.

Most everything changed for Cusano, who was no longer a half-hour from Hartford, Conn., and around 100 miles from both Boston and New York City – the food, the accents, the weather.

Finding a really authentic Italian restaurant? Well, that's a problem in itself. Best estimate is it's about 800 miles away.

"I had to get used to sweet tea," Cusano said with a laugh. "The people here are so genuinely nice. The pace is different, but people are friendly."

One thing that didn't change was Cusano was a quarterback who wanted to play. He was a football player in a place that shared his love for football.

Finding Greer was a match made on the gridiron. Three years ago, Reese Hannon had just graduated and gone on to start as a freshman at Furman.

Head Coach Will Young told Cusano he would have a chance to compete and Cusano took it.

"The spot was open," Cusano said. "I felt like I had a good chance of going in and doing well."

The results speak for themselves. Cusano is 34-3 in three seasons as a starter at Greer.

The Yellow Jackets completed back-to-back 10-0 regular seasons for the first time in school history and have won three straight Region II-3A championships. 

In a 48-14 win over Southside, Greer wrapped up the region title and Cusano broke Mazzie Drummond's school record for passing yardage.

This season, the dual-threat quarterback has accounted for more than 2,700 yards from scrimmage, including 2,073 through the air, thrown for 27 touchdowns against two interceptions and rushed for nine touchdowns.

Those are the numbers, but Cusano said he's driven by more than statistics.

"I think my strengths are being a positive leader and knowing that in any situation, we can do anything as a team," Cusano said. "I think I can always improve on my mechanics, but I feel like I've become an emotional leader on my team."

Truth is, Cusano's move to Greer may have come with altruistic intentions, but there was also the goal of being noticed by college scouts in a high school and college football hotbed.

After all, if Cusano could win, put up impressive numbers, his ticket is punched, right? That's where things get a little – to quote former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden – "bumfuzzled".

Cusano wasn't selected to the Shrine Bowl, though his top two receivers, Dorian Lindsey and Troy Pride, were. Fine. There may be three quarterbacks in the state who are better college prospects or have better resumes.

Then, the North-South All-Star game passed on him, but selected running back Adrian McGee whose nearly 1,100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 141 receiving yards and four interceptions on defense made him more than worthy.

OK, we say. It's an all-star game, only so many slots are open and, some of it comes down to politics as most things do.

However, while pleased with the many official visits for the deserving Pride, both Young and Drummond (champions of Cusano's cause after practically every game this season) are dumbfounded that Cusano has no real recruiting offers.

"Somebody is going to get a steal," Drummond said.

Cusano has shrugged off the lack of attention from recruiters. One recruiting website has him listed as a three-star recruit that Georgia State is "cool" on.

"It's been kind of slow, but, then again, I'm just going to keep on doing what I know I can do," Cusano said, noting that his first order of business is to end Greer's recent history of early playoff exits and lead the Yellow Jackets to a state title.

"I feel pretty confident that once the season is over and the coaches sit down and look at the numbers and the video, something will happen," Cusano said. "There's not much more that I can do, judging from the numbers and if we can win a state championship."

In the past week or so, things have picked up on the recruiting front for Cusano. He said Presbyterian and Western Carolina, both of which run spread systems similar to Greer's at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision level have in contact, and he's had some communication from Wake Forest and East Carolina.

College football can be a numbers game – some guys go unnoticed, including quarterbacks.

But Cusano passes the eye test. And the ear test.

He has the arm. He has the wheels. He has the attitude. 

He has the passion.

That's why he's here – at home – and why he should have a new home on Saturdays real soon.

UPDATE:  Sentence modified to clarify the use of the word "Irony" in a sentence about Troy Pride, Jr.'s recruiting visits.

 

 

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