BUILDING BLOCKS: Harlingen High graduate muscles his way into bodybuilding scene

HARLINGEN — In an athlete’s life there are certain values and characteristics one inherits during their time as a competitor.

For Jonathan Cantu, football was where he discovered his unmarked potential and developed a work ethic he still holds true today.

Growing up, Cantu always knew he wanted to play football, but he wasn’t where he wanted to be in terms of size.

“The summer going into eighth grade, my mother put me with a trainer and we worked out so I could be ready for football season,” Cantu said “I was a late bloomer and everyone was growing while I stayed the same, so my mom decided to help me out.”

Cantu would go on to play for the Harlingen Cardinals where he became a two time all-district wide receiver and appeared in the RGVCA East-West All-Star game his senior year.

Cantu then took his talents to Texas A&M University-Kingsville and unsuccessfully tried out for the Javelina football team.

But rather than dwell on what wasn’t meant to be, Cantu found a new obsession in lifting weights and landed a training position at Lean Fitness in Harlingen.

“No matter what I did, I always found myself back in the gym, working out or working there to lift for free; I always had to get my fix in,” said Cantu.

During his time as a trainer he decided to take it a step further and begin a bodybuilding career that launched him into another world.

“Man, stepping out on that stage is an adrenaline rush with everyone looking at you,” said Cantu “I love the spotlight and hearing the crowd cheer when you strike your poses is something else.”

Cantu participated in three competitions during his first year as a bodybuilder and came away with a first-place win in his weight class at the Battle on the Bay meet in Corpus Christi last July.

“I mean, making your appearance on stage is an accomplishment within itself, but earning first place was great. My coach wanted to go celebrate, but I wanted to get back in the gym,” Cantu said.

When he’s not lifting weights, Cantu likes to give back to the community by helping athletes prepare for their respective sports, and one day he wants to open his own training facility.

“I want to help people feel good about themselves and get these athletes into school so they can obtain their degrees,” he said.

Cantu is currently pursuing a degree in exercise science at UTRGV and will be participating in the Phil Heath Classic in Arlington in April.