Fans of the UCF football program might have been confused initially when a quarterback not named Mikey Keene or Joey Gatewood scored a touchdown in the game against SMU. However, after upping his tally to three straight games with touchdowns, fans should not have a problem remembering the name Parker Navarro.
Now a redshirt freshman, the quarterback arrived at UCF from the state of Arizona. Navarro was a track standout at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix Ariz. running a 11.51 in the 100 meter dash. While also standing out on the gridiron, completing 268 passes for 4,317 yards, and 46 touchdowns, as well as rushing for 1,243 yards and 14 touchdowns in his two years starting.
Navarro came to Orlando, Fla. in the class of 2020, under now Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel, who made Arizona quarterbacks a target, getting Keene the following recruiting cycle. Navarro held four FBS offers as a high schooler, Arizona State, Hawaii, North Texas, and UCF. But with quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. opting out of the 2020 season, because Covid-19 before entering the portal and transferring to Old Dominion, Navarro became UCF’s third string quarterback immediately.
Despite being the third quarterback on the depth chart, the lack of a FCS opponent on the shortened schedule forced Navarro to go with much playing time as a true freshman. He did receive some time during Georgia Tech, but didn’t record any statistics. Navarro stuck with the Knights after Head Coach Gus Malzahn took charge at UCF.
Coach Malzahn allowed Navarro to run wild during the Spring Game, allowing the signal caller to run the ball five times, scoring one touchdown and gaining 40 yards. This gave Navarro the platform to beat out UCF wide receiver Quadry Jones on the quarterback depth chart. Navarro then finally got his chance against SMU, after injuries to now UCLA quarterback Dillon Gabriel and Gatewood earlier in the season.
Against SMU, Navarro ran the ball twice, gaining seven yards and scoring a touchdown. Then with Coach Malzahn’s confidence in him soaring, Navarro ran three times against Connecticut, picking up one touchdown and 41 yards. Including the longest play of his career, scampering down the field for 32 yards. Navarro also picked up a three yard touchdown against rival South Florida early in the game, which gave UCF the platform to win their fifth straight “War on I-4.”
Coach Malzahn spoke to the media after the announcement of UCF facing Florida in Whenthe Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl, I asked him about Navarro’s three game touchdown streak. He said, “We probably need to give it to him more. He scored in three straight games. He's a guy that has really come out. He got an opportunity when some other guys were banged up and all that. He's a guy that I think you can see more and more. He throws it pretty well too."
Look for Navarro to continue serving as the running quarterback in tandem with Keene during the Gasparilla Bowl. Then next season, I’d expect him to again battle for the third string quarterback role. One thing is for sure, Navarro has developed a cult hero like status among a subsection of UCF fans.