CHAMPAIGN — Donny Navarro is now not only a curiosity.
Certain, his story is intriguing. Navarro transferred from small-school Valparaiso and made an impression at big-school Illinois.
Now coming into his second season on the sector, Navarro is being counted on as a significant piece of Rod Smith’s offense.
He completed second on the staff with 27 receptions for 345 yards in 2019. With out Navarro’s contributions, Illinois wouldn’t have rallied for a bowl-clinching win at Michigan State final November.
Not unhealthy for a man who wasn’t closely recruited after a strong profession at Neuqua Valley, the identical Naperville highschool that produced former Illini wideout Mikey Dudek.
At Valpo, Navarro led the staff in receiving his lone season (2017). He wished extra.
Navarro made the selection to offer it a strive in Champaign-Urbana.
“The College of Illinois was all the time my dream faculty,” he stated. “I all the time had that confidence I may play on the subsequent degree. If I didn’t have any success at Valpo, I wouldn’t have made that call.”
He’s a part of a rising record of switch success tales for Lovie Smith.
“At Illinois, while you come right here, they’re going to place the most effective 11 on the sector. Little question about it,” Navarro stated. “You’re going to get a possibility to indicate it in follow.”
Navarro isn’t about to relaxation on what he did in 2019.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound info sciences main understands he must earn taking part in time.
“I didn’t come out final 12 months and have 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns,” Navarro stated. “There isn’t any spot that’s assured. Nothing is given.”
Small victoriesNavarro sat out the 2018 season due to the NCAA switch rule.
“I all the time take a look at it as a 12 months I discovered rather a lot,” Navarro stated. “I used to be going towards a Large Ten protection day by day, and I used to be making ready each week like I used to be going to play.”
His consideration to element carried over to the 2019 season, when he was eligible once more.
He performed for the primary time in opener towards Akron. Navarro had three catches at Minnesota and a career-high seven at Michigan State.
Is there one other Navarro on the present staff? A participant prepared to interrupt out?
“There are guys who’ve proven flashes of a variety of expertise, and guys who’re given a possibility they usually’re taking that chance,” Navarro stated. “There are a variety of guys who’re hungry to have success.
“I’ve seen it everywhere in the area.”
Now on scholarship after Smith awarded him one throughout a staff assembly two days earlier than the Michigan State sport final season, Navarro roots for the walk-ons and the waiting-for-their-turn reserves.
“I attempt to tackle a management function and setting a course and displaying what it’s important to do,” Navarro stated. “I’m not good, that’s for positive. However I really feel like I’ve bought a method that helped me to achieve success. If I can share that, I’ll undoubtedly try this. Some guys attain out to me and ask, ‘What can I do to get a scholarship or to get on the sector?’ I’m sincere with them.
“I really like the gritty guys. The fellows that take alternatives when given to them. Type of the underdogs. They’re lots of people on the market anticipating you to not be superb. To have that starvation and show them fallacious is superior.”
Making stridesJosh Imatorbhebhe, the Illini’s main receiver in 2019, returns for his remaining season.
Navarro has loads of competitors for the No. 2 spot. Southern Cal switch Trevon Sidney, who missed a piece of final season with a leg harm, is on the mend.
Smith additionally introduced in a pair of transfers from Energy 5 faculties, who’re each instantly eligible. Khmari Thompson got here from Missouri and Brian Hightower performed at Miami.
“Brian and Khmari are actually good gamers,” Navarro stated. “They convey a variety of toughness to the group, a variety of dimension.”
Redshirt freshman Kyron Cumby has additionally generated appreciable buzz from the Illini coaches.
“Kyron is a superb character man,” Navarro stated. “He’s bought a variety of velocity. He works actually laborious. He listens rather well. He’s coachable. He’s able to get out and make an impression this 12 months.”
The important thing for the receivers and the staff, Navarro stated, is to benefit from each probability to enhance. Particularly given the Illini are solely assured 9 video games on this pandemic-abbreviated season.
“We’re going to do every thing we will to take the steps ahead,” he stated.