ROLAND — Roland coach Jeff Streun has probably told the story hundreds of times.
Austin Cantrell had been getting cut-blocked all game and was about fed up.
The next time the opposing player cut him, Cantrell tried to stop it. He ended up with his forearm in the blocker’s facemask.
The facemask came out on the losing end, completely dented in.
“I’ve never in 23 years of coaching seen anything like it,” Streun said.
That’s one example of the power and explosiveness that has Cantrell coming in at No. 8 on The Oklahoman’s Super 30 list of the state’s top recruits.
Cantrell is 6-foot-4 and close to 250 pounds. He also runs a 4.58 40-yard dash. When he plays tight end, defensive backs can’t cover him. At tailback, linebackers can’t tackle him. At defensive end, no one can block him.
Beginning in his freshman season, Cantrell had the ability to take over games.
“I’d get on the phone and coaches would say, ‘Where’d this guy come from? He’s just unstoppable,’” Streun said.
Going into his senior season, Cantrell is committed to Arkansas as a tight end. He had several other offers and was heavily recruited by Oklahoma. Cantrell chose Arkansas in large part because it’s only an hour away from home.
“That’s just who I am,” Cantrell said. “Arkansas is close to home. I like their coaching staff, coach (Bret Bielema). They’re great guys and guys I want to play for.”
Cantrell is close to his family, and he’s involved in nearly every extracurricular activity Roland High School offers. He said he has a simple motivation — to work hard and be the best at everything he does. That’s a mindset he picked up thanks to growing up working on his family’s farm.
This summer, he is working at one of the largest ranches in the area and spends hours building fence and hauling hay. He has the natural gifts of size and speed, but he also has a country work ethic to go with it.
“It teaches you a lot of life lessons, hard work,” Cantrell said. “It teaches me that I probably need to get an education if I don’t want to work this hard my whole life.
“It’s taught me to be more humble and appreciate the things I have going for me.”
Streun said Cantrell — who is leaning toward a major in ag economics at Arkansas — has a personality that is also a likely product of that lifestyle.
Around school, Streun said he’s well-mannered and humble.
Between the lines, he can be the worst nightmare for opposing teams — and their facemasks.
“He’s a real genuine kid,” Streun said. “There’s two personalities for him. On the football field, he can be incredibly aggressive. Off the field, he’s not like that at all.”
The Oklahoman’s Super 30
No. 8: Austin Cantrell
Committed to: Arkansas (March 20)