Cerrato played college football at Iowa State University, where he played quarterback and wide receiver.
Cerrato started his career as a graduate assistant for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1983 to 1984, and he was promoted to recruiting coordinator in 1985, before leaving for Notre Dame.
Before the NFL, Cerrato served as the football recruiting coordinator under Lou Holtz at the University of Notre Dame. During that time, the Irish played in four Bowl games and won the 1988 NCAA National Championship.
Cerrato was with the San Francisco 49ers for nine seasons. He joined San Francisco in 1991 as a scout and became the team's director of college scouting in June 1992, helping to draft players including Ted Washington, Ricky Watters, Dana Stubblefield and Bryant Young. In 1994, the 49ers were the Super Bowl XXIX championship team. In February 1995, Cerrato was promoted to director of player personnel, overseeing all college scouting and draft activities as well as pro scouting of NFL players and opponents.
Cerrato was hired by the Redskins in 1999. During this time, he acquired older big name stars like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Irving Fryar, Jeff George, and Mark Carrier. He was then fired by Marty Schottenheimer in 2001. During his brief hiatus from the Redskins, Cerrato worked for ESPN as a college analyst.
Cerrato was subsequently rehired by Daniel Snyder in 2002 as Vice President for Football Operations. The Redskins posted a cumulative 52-65 regular season won–loss record during this second stint.
On Thursday, December 17, 2009, the Redskins announced that Cerrato had resigned as Executive Vice-President of Football Operations. When asked whether Cerrato was offered another position in the Redskins front office, owner Daniel Snyder stated simply that it was "time to move on." Cerrato has since been doing a sports talk radio show in Baltimore Md, 105.7 the fan.