Commentary

Catching up with ... John Navarre

Quarterback led Wolverines to 31-point fourth quarter in 2003 Little Brown Jug game

Updated: September 29, 2011, 1:41 PM ET
By Michael Rothstein | WolverineNation

Editor's note: Catching Up With is a periodic series in which WolverineNation interviews past Michigan players about their playing days and what they're up to now. This installment features former quarterback John Navarre.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In his four years at Michigan, from 2000 to 2003, John Navarre became one of the most prolific passers in Wolverines history. He finished his career with 765 completions on 1,366 passes for 9,254 yards and 72 touchdowns. He is second all-time at Michigan in yards passing and touchdowns, behind Chad Henne.

Navarre also led Michigan to the 2004 Rose Bowl in his senior year and is the last Wolverines quarterback to beat Ohio State -- 35-21 in 2003.

[+] EnlargeJohn Navarre
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioFormer QB John Navarre says the two games he's asked the most about are beating Ohio State and the big comeback against Minnesota, both in 2003.
Besides that Ohio State game, he might be best known for his comeback during the 2003 Brown Jug game against Minnesota, in which he completed 33 of 47 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns as Michigan beat the Gophers 38-35. The Wolverines scored 31 points in the fourth quarter.

Now living in Wisconsin, he is married and has a daughter.

Q: What have you been up to since you left Michigan? John Navarre: I played a little bit in the NFL, and when I was done with the league I moved back home to Wisconsin, got married, have a 4-year-old daughter and am working as an assistant general manager at a local steel distributor.

Q: When you got to the NFL (he played with Arizona and briefly with Indianapolis), did you want to play for 15 years, or for a few years and then figure out what was next? JN: No, I wanted to play as long as I could. Unfortunately, in the NFL, it's not up to you; it's up to the people around you. If you're not in the right situation and you only get a limited amount of shots and chances -- you may only get one. If you don't capitalize on that one, your turn will pass. I wanted to play as long as I could, but I didn't want to hang on for dear life as long as I could, bouncing around from practice squad to practice squad. After I got let go the second time, I said, 'That's it. I want to start my career and my family now. Find something a little bit more stable and get going.'

Q: Did you think you'd get into steel? JN: No, I had no clue. I never had a background in the steel business. I had a family friend, acquaintance, that was in the business and got it from there.

Q: When I talked to you a couple of years ago, you were still working for Alro. Are you still with them? JN: Yep. Still with Alro and Al Glick.

Q: What's your career goal and progression there? JN: Just to keep advancing and progressing as much as possible. Started off as a quality coordinator and a plant manager and recently got promoted to assistant general manager, so just keep advancing and keep helping the company be successful.

Q: Looking back at Michigan, what's the memory that stands out the most? Is it the Jug game in '03? Something else? JN: Well, the memory that stands out the most ... my entire memory of my whole career at Michigan and all the people involved and the things I experienced and how they made me who I am today. The best football memory would have to be my senior year, the Ohio State game, the 100th anniversary and the Big Ten championship going to the Rose Bowl. That would be my best football memory, but Minnesota, that was definitely top five. That was senior year, part of that championship season, and we were in a do-or-die situation coming off a loss at Iowa, and if we don't win there we might have a completely different season and that would have been disheartening because a lot of those seniors had high hopes to win a championship that year.

Q: You mention that Ohio State game. What was it about that game that stands out? JN: Not specific things; just the buildup from that season to prepare for that game. Every week we took some kind of time out and prepared a little bit for Ohio State so we knew that when the time comes, we're going to be ready to play. The whole season played out perfectly for us to meet in that game, the 100th game, both playing for the Big Ten championship, to go to the Rose Bowl. We broke the attendance record at that game and it was just special. There were so many people there.

That game, we really played well as a ball club because we had prepared so hard throughout that season to play so well. We knew what to do, executed our game plan perfectly and just took it to Ohio State that game.

Q: When people talk to you about Michigan, do they bring up that Ohio State game more or bring up the Jug game from that year? JN: It's like 60-40. Everybody talks about Michigan-Ohio State, it's one of the first things that comes up. But the Jug game comes up often, probably second behind the Ohio State game. A lot of people actually got to see that game because of the way it played out. ... The Twins were in the playoffs so we had to change to a Friday night game on ESPN. We're one of the only people playing on a Friday night, Big Ten football, so I think it got a lot more publicity ... and it happened to be one of the best games in our school's history.

Q: That it was one of the best games in your career probably didn't hurt, either. JN: It was, statistically, one of the better games. It'll be one of the better games I'll ever remember because of how it played out, the Friday night game, the game plan changed. Just the buildup after the Iowa loss and two games on the road there. We're sitting there at halftime, down that many points [14-0] and thinking, 'Is this the way our season is going to go?'

Q: One last thing. What do you think of Michigan now that Brady (Hoke) is back and how the Wolverines have started? JN: Well, I think you're starting to see some of the things that Coach Hoke is doing to get people educated and back in line with some of the things they've done in their storied history. Bringing things back to basic blocking, tackling, mental toughness, physical toughness. He was there with some of the great coaches, so he understood what it was all about and he's bringing some of that back there. There are a lot of people excited about what he's doing.

He'll probably be the first one to tell you that his team is nowhere near ready or where he wants it to be. But the discipline, the toughness is going to be there. We just may not have all the right people in the right places yet, but he's going to get there. They are already learning from each other, but the thing you see is the discipline and mental toughness. You limit turnovers, not have a lot of dumb mistakes and penalties, and get the kids back to where they need to be.

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at michaelrothsteinespn@gmail.com or on Twitter @mikerothstein.

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