A big, bruising fullback for UCLA, Cantor was a backfield teammate of Jackie Robinson; another teammate was tackle Jack Cohen. In 1939, Cantor and the Bruins were undefeated as they entered the showdown with their crosstown rivals USC. Whereas the Trojans had dominated their opponents, the Bruins had lived on the edge all season, with last-minue heroics. With Cantor, Robinson, and Kenny Washington, the Bruins hoped for their first-ever victory over the Trojans.
Both teams were undefeated, but USC was a 14-point favorite. A record-breaking crowd of 103,300 fans filled the Los Angeles Coliseum to watch one of the greatest football games in the history of the UCLA-USC rivalry. After 55 evenly battled minutes, the game remained a scoreless tie, but UCLA had possession of the ball. They drove down to the USC three yard line for a first and goal as the clock was winding down. After being stopped on first down, the Bruins gave the ball to Cantor on second and third down, but he was stopped by three Trojan defenders, led by Ben Sohn, just inches from the end zone.
On the all-important fourth down play, UCLA coach Babe Horrell refused to make a decision and sent no instructions to his team on the field. In the huddle, the team voted on what they wanted to do and while five players said kick the field goal for the guaranteed win, six others voted for a pass play. On fourth down, the pass play failed and the USC players mobbed one another as the game ended 0-0. The Trojans went on to win the National Championship after winning the Rose Bowl; the Bruins had to wait another three years to defeat USC.
When asked why he did not send in a man with instructions to kick the field goal, coach Horrell just grinned and said, "The game is over now; it makes little difference, don't you think?" UCLA finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation; it was first time in school history the Bruins were ranked in the final poll.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. February 28, 1919 - d. June 4, 1995
Cantor was an excellent back for four seasons with UCLA from 1938-1941. In 1938, the Bruins finished the season with a record of 7-4-1. After an outstanding 1939 season when they finished ranked No. 7 in the nation (the first top ten ranking in school history) with a record of 6-0-4, UCLA had a terrible season in 1940 (1-9-0). In 1941, Cantor gained 117 yards on 18 carries in the final game of the year against Florida, a 30-27 Bruin victory. That same year, he was tied for the team lead in points with 18 as UCLA finished with a record of 5-5-1. Leo was selected as a member of UCLA's All-Time Team by football historian Dr. L.H. Baker.
After graduating from UCLA in 1942, Cantor played two seasons in the NFL. Leo played in 20 career NFL games for the Giants and Cardinals. In 1942, He played for the Giants who had a record of 5-5-1. In 1945, Cantor played for the Cardinals (1-9-0) and had his best professional season. He rushed 83 times for 291 yards and five touchdowns and had 15 receptions for 159 yards.
Cantor played halfback at the University of California-Los Angeles from 1938-1941. He then played defensive back, halfback, and fullback in the NFL with the New York Giants in 1942 and for the Chicago Cardinals in 1945.
6'0", 195 pounds
In the NFL:
Passes completed: 15
Passes attempted: 47
Passing percentage: 31.9
Passing yards: 271
Passing touchdowns: 1
Interceptions thrown: 5
Rushing yards: 415
Rushing average: 2.8
Rushing touchdowns: 7
Receiving yards: 159
Receiving average: 10.1
Punting yards: 929
Punting average: 37.2