U-M Wraps Spring With Scrimmage, Alumni Game at Michigan Stadium

April 17, 2010

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John Navarre is Cold Today

When John Navarre walked into the visitor's locker room at Michigan Stadium he towered over most of the alumni suiting up and rubbing their cold muscles around him. He looked like a former tight end, not Michigan's star quarterback in the early 2000s. Navarre graduated with a number of Wolverine passing records and was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals, wrapping up his pro career in 2007 and moving into the steel business. He hadn't thrown a football since July of 2009 when he played one offensive series at quarterback in an alumni football game at Cudahy High School in Wisconsin. John Navarre is cold today.

He turned his Alro Steel camoflague baseball cap backwards and pulled on a blue adidas jersey and slipped grey shorts over his long pants for the game. Navarre was recruited to play in the spring game by former Wolverine Andy Mignery, who quarterbacked one of the squads at the 2009 spring game. Navarre had planned to attend anyway, so Mignery thought he'd beef up the quarterbacks corps with the former Wolverine signal caller.

Navarre looked around the locker room, already itching to get on the field a full 25 minutes before the start of the game. A reporter from AnnArbor.com stopped him for a quick flip cam video, which had to be shot at an extreme angle to get the six-foot-six quarterback in frame. Navarre wrapped up the interview and speed-walked down the tunnel, jogging onto the field. Navarre's father, Larry, and daughter, Morgan, along with two of Navarre's good friends sat on metal bleachers on the sidelines watching him warm up at midfield.

"He was throwing rockets at his high school alumni game," Larry Navarre said, wearing a puffy blue Michigan jacket. "Unfortunately, his targets were a little out of practice. It took them a long time to run 15-yard outs."

Little Morgan bounced on the bleachers in her new pink shoes trying to stay warm. "I think he'll do okay," Larry said, smiling. "It is pretty cold today."

Navarre zipped passes to his teammates, warming up his golden arm. He shook a lot of hands and hugged former teammates as they trickled out onto the field for their own warm-ups. With a year of experience under his belt, Mignery offered Navarre three pieces of advice.

  1. Quick release
  2. Throw the ball on time
  3. Have fun

Navarre seemed to be mastering the third tip. He shook hands with his coach for the day, LaMarr Woodley, and they flipped through a plain white binder full of plays.
"These are pretty crude," Navarre said.

His coach shook his head. Navarre jogged off and Woodley turned to this reporter.

"He's not a running quarterback," Woodley whispered, "so we have to give him more time. We're going to go downfield early."

"They've got some chemistry," Woodley said, pointing to Mignery and Navarre tossing a football back and forth. "I think Andy will be his main target today."

The Blue team and the White team lined up across from each other and the crowd roared its approval when Frank Beckmann introduced Navarre. Woodley won the coin toss and took the football, putting Navarre under center to start the game. The Wolverine great wasted no time displaying his chemistry with Mignery, completing a seven-yard pass to his recruiter to open the game, then hitting a 12-yard completion for a first down. After an incompletion and a sack, Mignery hauled in a 19-yard pass, putting the ball on the one-yard line. On the next snap, Navarre dropped back and threw a rope into the end zone for the score. Blue led 6-0.

Navarre and the Blue team turned the ball over on downs in their second series but struck for another touchdown in the third attempt. The White team responded, taking the lead with just over two minutes remaining, leaving Navarre and his mates less than 120 seconds to score the game-winning touchdown.

Watching on the sidelines was Michigan quarterbacks coach Rod Smith. He studied Navarre's two-minute drill, watching the former Wolverine dissect the defense and quarterback the Blue team for the winning score, a sweet touchdown pass to the end zone.

"He was real good with his progressions," said Smith. "He checked down a lot and on that final touchdown pass he looked off the receiver real well." Smith paused. "He's a big ole boy, isn't he?"

The White team threw a last-ditch pass into the end zone, but it fell to the turf incomplete and Navarre raised his arm in victory once again at Michigan Stadium.
Navarre slapped high fives and hugged teammates, while his fans on the bleachers clapped.

"He even surprised me!" said his father Larry. "We'll be icing him down all night. I'm sure his adrenaline is running high, putting the pain aside. He'll feel it tomorrow."
Reporters swarmed Navarre on the field, thrusting audio recorders into his face and shooting video on flip cams.

"They had a broken coverage on that last touchdown," Navarre said. "My receiver ran the wrong route too, but it worked out. I had the luxury of five seconds to make a play, which is unheard of."

When the reporters cleared out, Navarre relaxed. He held his daughter in his arm and looked for the rest of his fans.

"Man I'm cold," he said, trotting off.

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