Cantwell hopes to lead Cards to big season

Hunter Cantwell has waited patiently for this moment. Now, less than one month from the season-opener against Kentucky, Louisville's senior quarterback is eager to lead the Cardinals into the new season.

While waiting his turn behind Brian Brohm the past three seasons, Hunter Cantwell has already exceeded all expectations – rising from walk-on status to one of top National Football League prospects at his position in the country.

"I came in here and walked-on and didn't really have any expectations and didn't know what was going to happen," Cantwell said. "It's one of those things that happened to work out and I'm blessed to be able to start my senior year. I want to take full advantage of it and do it."

Cantwell, 3-1 as a starter in his career, won't be shell-shocked when he leads Louisville onto the field August 31 against the Wildcats. But that doesn't mean he won't be excited to start a game in front of the home crowd – something the 6-foot-5 signal caller has yet to experience in his four career starts.

"It's going to be a blast," said Cantwell. "Before I've always started on the road and I'm really looking forward to running out of that tunnel with 40,000 people in Papa John's."

Cantwell will make his first start at home against a program that he wanted to join coming out of Paducah, Kentucky four years ago – and almost did. But when the Wildcats opted to go another direction at quarterback, Cantwell found his way to Louisville and hasn't looked back.

"(Kentucky) recruited me as were a bunch of other schools but it just didn't work out and fell through," Cantwell said. "They decided they wanted to go a different way at quarterback and I was looking to walk-on. UofL gave me my shot when no one else would. I don't have any hard feelings. I'm very happy to be here at UofL."

Unlike Brohm, Cantwell won't have the luxury of throwing to Harry Douglas, Mario Urrutia or Gary Barnidge this season. Instead, he'll have to rely on a relatively young wide receiver corps that is long on potential but short on playing experience.

"I think right now Scott Long, Doug Beaumont and Chris Vaughn are looking real good," Cantwell said. "Everyone is going to have their misses on the first day but those three guys haul it in. I think we're going to have a really good corps of receivers and I think those three guys will lead the way."

There's no question that Cantwell is a leader on offense. He clearly demonstrated command in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage on the first day of camp. What he's trying to accomplish throughout fall practice is helping some of the inexperienced players – freshmen like Jacques Caldwell and Damion Dixon – adjust quickly to the speed of the college game.

"You help the guys kind of slow it down a little bit and talk to them," Cantwell said. "The more they know about the game and the playbook slows things down for them. That's the big thing just helping calm them down."

Now weeks away from his big chance – his only chance – to show he's got the stuff to lead Louisville back to a bowl game, and, in the process, boost his NFL stock, Cantwell understands the team will look to him when the going gets tough this season.

"I understand I've got to be a leader on this team being a fifth-year senior and being the quarterback here at the University of Louisville," Cantwell said. "That demands a certain demeanor and level of enthusiasm and play. Hopefully I can lead this team to good things."

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