Parker Navarro knew there was something different about the University of Central Florida campus when he visited this past weekend.
It started with the atmosphere driving near the campus. When he finally stepped foot on campus, he was able to picture himself in that environment on a daily basis.
It was on that same visit that UCF offered him a full-ride scholarship to continue his football career. On Thursday afternoon, Navarro made it official by committing to play for the Knights.
“The coaches and I started building a relationship awhile back,” Navarro said. “I instantly felt a connection between them when I finally met with them face-to-face. The facilities were amazing, and they have so many other things in the works for student-athletes.”
Navarro, a 6-foot, 190-pound pro-style quarterback, spent his senior season shredding opposing defenses both through the air and on the ground. Navarro threw for 2,749 yards and 29 touchdowns. He only threw six interceptions the entire season.
He also rushed for 959 yards and 11 more touchdowns.
Navarro has been widely regarded as one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the state. He received offers from smaller programs throughout the season, but his recruiting took off after the Thunder concluded their 9-4 campaign.
"Myself and his offensive coordinator, Sean Morin, are just so excited for everything that has happened to Parker," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said. "He showed up Friday nights and helped us win football games, sometimes almost single-handedly. As far as a person goes, I always tell his dad they brought him up right. As a player, in my opinion he is the best RPO guy in the state.
"A big key to our offense was to have a kid like him that can run the show and have freedom to do things. He did it well."
Navarro received a preferred walk-on offer from Arizona State on Dec. 17. That same day, he received an offer from the University of Hawaii. Arizona State’s walk-on offer turned into a full-ride scholarship on Jan. 13, three days before he picked up another full-ride from the University of North Texas.
He took an unofficial to Arizona State Wednesday and had planned for an official visit to North Texas this weekend. But as he weighed his options, he realized UCF would be the best fit.
“For me, with coach (Josh) Heupel being a quarterback and coach (Joey) Halzle being a quarterback, I see myself developing in ways I might not know right now,” Navarro said. “I just felt confident in the situation there.”
Navarro plans to sign his National Letter of Intent on Wednesday, Feb. 5. That’s when things will really start to settle in after what he called a “stressful” few weeks.
“First and foremost, I just feel so blessed," Navarro said. "I always wanted to go DI and God has blessed me with all of these opportunities. I just plan to enjoy it with my family. I feel so blessed. But I'm kind of glad it's over."
Navarro is UCF’s first commitment at the quarterback position in the 2020 class. The Knights currently have five on the roster, including senior McKenzie Milton, who suffered a gruesome knee injury in 2018, and Gabriel Dillon, who started as a true freshman last season.
UCF has been a frequent visitor to major college football bowl games in recent years. In 2014, the Knights broke through and beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. On Jan. 1, 2018, UCF beat Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to finish 13-0. The Knights were the only undefeated team remaining in college football that year and dubbed themselves the national champions. The banner can be seen at UCF's practice facility. On Jan. 1, 2019, UCF returned to the Fiesta Bowl but fell LSU. This past season, the Knights beat Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Navarro is determined to come in and compete from day one, just like he did at Desert Vista. Not only is it the expectations he set for himself, but it’s something the UCF coaches expect him to do as well.
“I come in and compete every day,” Navarro said. “With the resources from the coaching staff, I feel like I can come in and push whoever the starter is. I feel like I will be ready to play when I have my opportunity.”