Ruben Cantu Named a "Bringer of Light"
KINGSVILLE - April 21, 2011
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Ruben J. Cantu, senior associate athletic director-operations, has been named a “Bringer of Light” by the campus group Servants of Las Luminarias.
An anonymous collection of campus community members, the Servants of Las Luminarias select those that they feel are “bringers of the light of the knowledge of goodness to the Texas A&M University-Kingsville campus community.”
As a spring honoree, Cantu received a ceramic “luminaria,” or large ornamental candle holder, a plant and a framed certificate of recognition. The certificate states that Cantu had, through word and deed, “selflessly and consistently shone the light of goodness into our midst.”
"I walked in and saw the award on my desk and wondered, 'What's this all about?'" Cantu said. "I didn't know a lot about it at first, but when I learned more, I really felt like this was quite an honor.
"I think of myself as a back row player, someone working behind the scenes and out of the spotlight, so to be recognized by this group with an honor like this means a lot, and I want to tell them thanks."
Cantu has been working in the training room at the university for 23 years. He earned his master's degree at Texas A&M-Kingsville and was remembered by the previous trainer when a job came open.
"I had earned my bachelor's degree at Baylor University. The Javelina trainer before me, Mike Chandler, knew me from my Baylor days. During my time as a master's student, Mike and Coach Harms thought of me when an opening came up in the training room. I've been here ever since."
Cantu was raised in the Valley and wasn't expecting to have his career back in South Texas, but the job and the area spoke to him.
"The people in the community--both the university and the Kingsville communities--keep you here. I'd like my son to stay here, where there's a feeling of safety and family. I love it here, and I love the Javelinas."
Cantu volunteers his time in the community with programs like the Cactus Bowl, Relay for Life, Kleberg County Parks and Recreation events and Keep Kingsville Beautiful, and on campus with programs such as Javelina Club, advisor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Week of the Young Child at the Marc Cisneros Center for Young Children, where he has a nine-month old son, Jaanus, attending during the day. Cantu's wife, Reili, used to be among the university's coaching staff when she and Ruben met. They have been married for more than five years.
When asked what a typical day on campus is like for Cantu, he laughed and said there was no typical day for the senior associate athletic director in operations. "You get to campus at 7:30 a.m. with a game plan of what the day is going to be, and by the time you leave between 6 and 6:30 p.m., the game plan has gone through a lot of changes.
"Every day is different, which is part of what I love about the job. There's teaching, taking care of a student's health issues, administrative work, then all the different athletic practices. There's no real set routine."
Needless to say, the students are the main focus of what Cantu does. He referenced a simple piece of advice from former Javelinas football coach and athletics director Ron Harms that guides Cantu in his day-to-day work with students--"Son, you've got to remember, if the students weren't here, we wouldn't have a job." Translation--the students come first.
"From the time you get a student as a freshman to the time they're seniors, you start to see the students mature, and the light comes on inside them about what they want to do in life and who they want to be. Sometimes I'll get a call from a student after they've graduated, and they'll say to me, 'Thanks-I get it now. I get what you were teaching me.' We don't just want athletics for them, we want them to be well rounded and ready to succeed in the world."Knowing you've helped mold a student into a good, productive citizen, supplementing the lessons they received from their parents and from home, it means a lot."
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