Cantwell, a former walk-on from Paducah, Ky., paid his dues as Brian Brohm's backup for three seasons and now is poised to start in his final season at Louisville.
Projected as an NFL prospect, Cantwell – who is 6 feet 4 and 236 pounds – likely could have started elsewhere had he transferred, as many other quarterbacks in his position might have done. Instead, Louisville will have the luxury of a veteran quarterback to try to right the ship.
"It never crossed my mind (to transfer)," said Cantwell, who was 11 of 18 for 103 yards and a touchdown in Friday's spring game. "I love this city. U of L gave me a chance to play when no one else would. I have so many friends here on the team and in the school. I really felt like the coaching staff got me to the point where I am today even when I wasn't playing."
He takes over an offense with some holes. The top three receivers – and five of the top six – are gone, and leading rusher Anthony Allen transferred. At least two fulltime starters are back on the line.
Cantwell is hardly an unknown, going 3-1 as a starter in two games 2005 and two more in 2006. In those games, he is 66 of 120 for 1,000 yards, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. But he threw just 14 passes last season.
"He has shown the capabilities of doing that (leading the team)," Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe said. "Now he has to do it on a full-time basis and with a lot more hoopla around him. Before, he was kind of a substitute teacher; now he's got a full-time position."