Regardless of whether his collegiate swan song is comprised of him throwing four touchdowns in a victory or four interceptions in a loss, Hunter Cantwell's Louisville legacy has already been cemented.
The former walk-on from Paducah will forever be remembered as a kid with a cannon for an arm who made some key starts and throws in U of L's most successful football season to date, but who ultimately disappointed in is first and only season as the Cardinals' starting quarterback.
It's an accurate synopsis, but it doesn't tell nearly the whole story.
The season Cantwell had waited his entire life for took its first hit when Mario Urrutia declared for early entry into the NFL Draft last Dec. 14. The aptly sized quarterback and the aptly sized wide receiver had a special connection from the first time they stepped on the field together, and Urrutia was on the receiving end of nearly half of the ten touchdown passes Cantwell had to his credit heading into this season. He then began to form a similar bond with Scott Long which was cut off when the No. 1 receiver in waiting broke a bone in his foot before the season, resumed when he returned and went off for 134 yards and a pair of scores, and terminated when he tore his ACL and was shelved for the season.
On the whole, the quarterback Mel Kiper had pegged as the top in his class this time a year ago has struggled every bit as much as the team he's commanded in 2008. He's tossed an identical 16 touchdowns and interceptions while guiding the Cards to an up-and-down 5-6 season heading into tomorrow night's regular season finale at Rutgers.
When Hunter Cantwell's final snap as a Louisville Cardinal has come and gone, it'll be far too easy to remember the long release, the batted passes, the staring down of one receiver and the disappointing season. What's more difficult but probably more suitable is to remember Cantwell as the player who chose to stay at Louisville when it probably wasn't the best move for him personally.
He had the opportunity to be a three-year starter at a mid-level D-1 program after giving a gutsy performance in the '06 Gator Bowl, and then the opportunity to be a two-year starter at a major D-1 program after his rocket arm was on full display in a highly publicized demolition of Miami. In both instances Cantwell chose to stay, not because he thought he had the chance to unseat Brian Brohm or because he thought Brohm would bolt early for the NFL, but because he wanted to remain loyal to the U of L football program.
"I walked on at Louisville and it was the only Division I-A school that gave me a chance," Cantwell said before this season. "I just felt a lot of loyalty to the school and my coaches. As tough as it was, and even when people were always telling me, 'transfer, transfer, transfer,' I couldn't imagine leaving Louisville."
And that's what should define Hunter Cantwell's legacy as a Louisville Cardinal.