By Mike Moguin
After a lot of prayer, Union center Gabe Cantu ultimately came to the conclusion that the University of Tulsa was his college football destination.
“I had a lot of discussion with family, sought my coaches about it, and just mainly seeking the Lord,” Cantu said. “I spent a couple of hard weeks praying and that’s the door that opened and that’s the door we went through.”
Cantu chose TU over D-II offers from Northwestern Oklahoma State, East Central and Pittsburg State. A 6’4″, 295-pound center, Cantu’s athleticism allows him to be utilized on defense occasionally.
“We have some packages where I’m playing both ways,” Cantu said.
Being a two-way starter has advantages, he said.
“We’re a lot more conditioned than everyone else,” Cantu said. “We’ve got high motors and I feel like we’re the most competitive on the field and we just love football. We never stop and we give our best.”
Cantu has been starting since week four against Owasso last year. He also played guard some in the Backyard Bowl game against Jenks two weeks earlier.
The key to being a successful offensive lineman, he said, is studying your playbook.
“You have to be nasty and have to want to put people on the ground and you just have to truly own and love the position, in my opinion,” Cantu said. “Just the physicality of it all, you can’t play o-line and be soft. You just have to own it and you got to grow into the perfect offensive lineman.”
And he has his favorite players to learn from.
“When I study center stuff, I study Pat Elflein a lot,” Cantu said. “I like the way he plays. He is a pretty nasty guy.”
Elflein plays for the Minnesota Vikings and played collegiately at Ohio State. Cantu has liked other centers from the Big 10 school as well. When it comes to the game of football itself, he loves the physicality of it, he said.
“I like going out there and hitting people. I’m a pretty competitive guy and I like the outlet it gives me for all the things I want to do,” Cantu said. “I just love the opportunities that come with it.”
And, of course, Cantu sees both of his team’s lines, offense and defense, as being physical.
“We like to move people up front,” he said. “We’ve got some dudes that are competitive and we have some little things to take care of, some things that are easy to fix. But we’ve got it down to where we’re physical and mean and like to hit people. That’s what I like about it.”
Union opened the season Aug. 30 in Mansfield (Lake Ridge) Texas.
“I’m super-excited,” Cantu said one week earlier. “Anytime we get a chance to play some Texas teams, we like to take it. We’re excited to be down there and show what Oklahoma can do.”
Then there are the rivals: Broken Arrow, Jenks and Owasso, all of whom the Redskins play in September.
“We go into the year the same way,” Cantu said. “We want to go undefeated and we want to win the state championship. We’re going to play with the same intensity with everybody. We play the same. We have one way. Just, whoever wants to go in front of us, that’s how we’re going to play. We’re going to play nasty.”