The nation’s top offensive tackle in the 2026 class is the latest prospect Ohio State has added to its recruiting board in that respective cycle.
Shortly before five-star Missouri offensive tackle Jackson Cantwell took the practice field for Nixa High School (Nixa, Missouri), Cantwell had a brief conversation with Ohio State general manager Mark Pantoni. Pantoni offered Cantwell, making him the sixth 2026 offensive tackle OSU has offered in the class.
“It feels really good,” Cantwell told Eleven Warriors of picking up the offer. “Obviously being from Missouri, I haven’t watched a whole lot of Ohio State football. But it’s a top program so it’s definitely great I have the opportunity to learn more about them as time goes on.”
The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Cantwell didn’t even know the Buckeyes were scouting him but was pleased to learn one of the nation’s top programs had interest in him.
“He said they’ve watched a lot of my film from this season,” Cantwell said of his conversation with Pantoni. “Honestly, I had no idea. The way recruitment works at this point is it’s kind of hard who is looking at you when (you’re an underclassman). It was definitely interesting to hear that. But it was great that they were complimentary of my film so far.”
Per 247Sports’ composite rankings, Cantwell is the No. 3 overall prospect and the top-rated offensive tackle in the 2026 class. He’s picked up 23 Division I offers so far, including from the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Miami, Michigan State, Mizzou, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Penn State, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Wisconsin.
“It still kind of feels not really real in the sense that around a year ago I had one offer at this point,” Cantwell said. “And even then, I didn’t really know what that meant at that point. Now I have around 23. It’s a little bit of a different experience than I thought I’d be having my sophomore year of high school if you were to ask me a while back. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, it’s great to see all these places and hear from them, it’s great.”
While Cantwell’s knowledge of OSU is pretty limited at this point, the Missouri product says he’s eager to get to know the Buckeyes’ coaching staff and that Ohio State has his attention.
“They’ve got one of the best programs in the country right now,” Cantwell said of OSU. “They’re having success for sure. I know they have a huge rivalry with Michigan which I was probably going to watch regardless, but now I’m for sure going to watch that game now that I’m offered to see what they’re about. It’s definitely a highly-regarded school as far as football goes.”
Cantwell currently plays left tackle for Nixa High School, which currently boasts an undefeated 9-0 record this season.
“What our program has really made me get into is down blocking and pass protection,” Cantwell said. “Pretty much anything in the run game where I can go down and block linebackers or defensive tackles is pretty good. I feel like in pass protection my reach blocks have been pretty good as well. I obviously have a lot of athleticism and size, but I’d say there’s a few things I’m doing pretty well at right now.”
Cantwell is the son of two former Olympic shot put throwers. His father is Christian Cantwell, a Mizzou alumnus who won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. His mother, Teri Steer, competed at the 2000 Sydney Games.
In his freshman year, Cantwell himself won a Missouri Class 5A state championship in shot put, turning in a mark of 64.375 feet which set a Missouri Class 5A state record. Cantwell would like to continue to compete as a thrower in college, but realizes that may not be practical.
“I’m definitely enjoying it as far as competing in high school, it’s a fun sport and obviously my parents doing it makes it fun to compete in it and hear about what they did in high school and compete against that,” Cantwell said. “At the next level, I don’t know what my throwing career will look like. I’m not 100 percent sold, right now, football might be something I might do for a long time, so I’m not sure how that might look in the future. I’m still thinking about what I want to do with that.”
Cantwell said he grew up a Mizzou fan, but started to broaden his horizons as a freshman in high school and started watching everybody. He estimates he’s watched around 30 teams so far this season, including the Ohio State vs. Notre Dame game in September.
“I really do want to visit (Ohio State),” Cantwell said. “I’m not sure when, since I’ll have to fly. But it’s definitely something in the back of my mind. There’s definitely been a lot of schools I kind of want to get to that are further away, Ohio State will be added to that list and probably will be added somewhere at the front of new schools to visit. I might be able to visit sometime sooner rather than later, we’ll see about that.”
In his recruitment, Cantwell said the team’s success, his fit at the university, relationships with the coaching staff and academics will all be factors in his college decision. That decision likely is a long way out, though, as Cantwell said he doesn’t envision committing until sometime after his senior season.
“I’ll probably be one of the later guys,” Cantwell said. “I just don’t really see a reason to commit early right now. Especially since my track recruitment isn’t even open yet, so I haven’t even been able to take track visits.”