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Q&A: Donny Navarro III brings an “edge” to the ‘Cats

In this Q&A, the Illinois transfer discusses his first few months in Evanston, his pre-game meals and the mentality he adds to the locker room.

Northwestern Wildcats v Nebraska Cornhuskers - Aer Lingus College Football Classic 2022 Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Inside NU’s Gavin Dorsey got the chance to catch up with wide receiver Donny Navarro III after practice. Navarro transferred from Illinois this offseason and has already made a splash with the Wildcats, catching four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska.

Inside NU: Tell me about your trip to Ireland, what did you enjoy the most? How did you think your game went?

The trip was great just to experience a different culture and to be in Europe. I’d never been to Europe, my family got an opportunity to come out as well. One thing that was kind of throwing me off was people driving on the left side of the road. The architecture of Ireland was really cool. I think everyone was really nice, very welcoming and really cool people to talk to. We thank Ireland for their hospitality.

INU: What do you think about your performance on the field?

As a team, we came out and we were prepared, mentally and physically, and it showed for four quarters for sure. A lot of good things came out of the game, a lot of things that we got to work on, and that’s what we’ve focused on this week. Using every day, whether it’s a bye week practice or a game week prep practice, taking advantage of every single rep and learning from it, and looking to learn every single day.

INU: We saw a little bit of what you can do against Nebraska, what do you think you bring to this Northwestern team, both on the field and off the field?

I bring a level of competitiveness, for sure. I think I bring unselfishness, I’m willing to do everything and anything it takes for us to win - special teams, offense in the pass game, in the run game, blocking on the perimeter. I’m looking to be the most complete player that I can be. I think that’s what I’ve learned that the standard is here at Northwestern. I’m excited to keep working and to keep learning, from my coaches and my teammates. There’s a really good receiver room that we’ve got that has experience in there, and we all feed off of each other, we all learn from each other. It’s really cool to have that in your room.

INU: As a transfer, what made you want to come to Northwestern?

Through conversations I’d had with the coaching staff, Coach Springer, Coach Fitzgerald, and Coach Bajakian, I felt this was a good fit for me, not only on the field, but off the field as well. Obviously, Northwestern is a really good academic school. I’m really looking forward to continuing through a post-baccalaureate program in the fall. Between those two things, I thought it was the right fit for me.

At this point, The Daily Northwestern’s John Riker joined the interview. Two of his questions will be included as part of this Q&A.

Riker: Ryan [Hilinski] was saying how you really hit the ground running [when you came to NU]. Where do you see your role in the transition of leadership immediately after joining the program?

I was looking really to try to hit the ground running right away, be as prepared as possible, get in the film room, get the playbook and just try to get timing right away. I know that there were some routes that we like to run, and so those routes, I wanted to get the best at. I wanted to get the best timing that we could with the quarterback. That just comes with repetition, repetition, repetition. Ryan has been great throughout this process, someone that I can text all the time, looking to put extra work in, and credit to him just being so locked in. I love taking the field with him.

Riker: Walk me through that first touchdown, how exciting was that, especially in your first game in purple?

It was definitely an exciting moment. A lot of emotions came out after that, coming from a long spring semester where I was at home to a place that has been tremendous for me and my family. Eleven is one, right? Offensive line protected, running backs protected, other guys ran routes, Ryan put it in a great spot, and I had to do the easy part and finish it.

INU: As a former walk-on, how do you think that’s impacted your mentality and your football career so far?

I think I’ve learned about preparation, and the mental game and things of that nature. It’s important to not only prepare your body physically, but to do your film work, to do your walkthroughs out here on your own and get your extra balls caught. From that point, I think that has explained and that’s kind of been my edge, I guess we can say. Being the hardest worker that you can, doing whatever it takes. You got 24 hours a day, use every bit of time to your advantage to try and get yourself better.

INU: You’ve been here a couple months so far, what’s been your favorite part of Evanston?

I get to walk out on this practice field and I get to see the lake here, and I get to see the city of Chicago. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t love being here. I think another really big part of being here is the guys in the locker room. It’s an awesome locker room, guys with a lot of really good character. I enjoy coming in and really playing hard for those guys, for the guy next to me, for the receiver room and for this team and looking to do what I can to help this team to be better.

INU: What’s your pre-game routine? Do you have any special traditions, or foods you like to eat?

I’ve got to go with my overnight oats in the morning, three eggs, and a protein waffle. From there, lunch is a turkey sandwich and fruit, and usually that’s game time. I try to keep that same thing every single day, every practice, just so that there’s no surprises as far as the way my stomach’s feeling.

INU: Anything in particular that hypes you up before games? Any songs?

I don’t listen to too much music, but I like to take a lot of notes as far as what I’m going to see. I’ll open up my notes app on my phone and walk through it as I see it, if this guy is playing press, this guy is playing off, this is my route... It’s kind of like the visualization aspect of things, which just really helps me and I kind of use that throughout.

INU: What are you most looking forward to for the rest of the season?

I think I’m most looking forward to just getting better every week with the guys. There’s a standard, there’s our edge, and we’re working to keep building on that every single week. We’re looking to go 1-0 every single week. It’s really exciting to come out here, bring a lot of energy and intensity and play football. All these guys have a lot of fun. I have a lot of fun being out here. I’ve been playing ball for six years, so I’m definitely taking in everything right now. There’s no guarantees going into into next year, but I love college football. I love Northwestern, and so I’m excited to kind of just keep working every single week.

INU: What’s one thing you want Wildcat fans to know about you?

Number 80 is going to do everything he can every single week to prepare and do what he can to win on Saturdays.