A Houston native, Cantrell was a standout center at Kansas while playing for current Owls' Offensive Coordinator John Reagan. He started 33 games at KU, including his final 25 consecutive, and was elected as a captain of the Jayhawks' 2008 team. As a junior, he anchored an offensive line (which included current Rice offensive grad assistant Adrian Mayes) that led KU to an Orange Bowl title. He was a member of three bowl championship teams (2005 Fort Worth Bowl, 2008 Orange Bowl, 2008 Insight Bowl) and was named honorable mention All Big XII in his last two season as well as to the Rimington Award Watch List prior to his senior year. He was presented the Gale Sayers Award for Courage as a senior.
He was a two-time member of the KU Athletic Director's Honor Roll and graduated with a degree in Economics (with a Business minor) in 2009.
A 2004 graduate of Clements High School where he was a member of Dave Campbell's Texas Football SuperTeam, Cantrell returned to the school after his graduation from Kansas and was an assistant offensive line coach from 2009-10.