Carl Sandburg High School celebrated alum and retiree Mike Navarro in a stadium renaming ceremony just prior to last Friday night’s varsity football game.
Navarro, a 1969 graduate of Sandburg, excelled in football, wrestling and track. During his high school athletic career he was named to the All-State Football Team in 1968-69, Worth Reporter Player of the Year in 1968-69, and also placed second in the IHSA 1968-69 State Wrestling Tournament. In addition, he set the school record for yardage gained by a running back and the record for touchdowns.
Navarro is one of only three Sandburg football players to have his number retired, including Northwestern University Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald and Denver Bronco Super Bowl Champion Mike Schofield.
Following graduation, Navarro played football on a scholarship at the University of Illinois while earning his teaching degree. As a sophomore, he was recognized for his impact on the Fighting Illini, and as a junior he ranked tenth on the all rushing record board. After suffering a career ending knee injury, he remained at the university to complete his degree and cheer on his team mates. Currently, he is ranked 32 in all-time rushing yardage. While at Illinois, he also received the 1971 Bruce Copel Award for Outstanding Courage and Perseverance.
Upon graduation, he began his teaching career including 30 years at Sandburg where he has been highly regarded as both a physical education teacher and coach by administrators, colleagues, and students. He retired in June 2007.
Principal Deb Baker noted that “Mike Navarro has been a great role model to many students and staff at Sandburg. As a teacher and coach, he modeled discipline, determination, and teamwork.” Navarro also was instrumental in developing the wellness program that has blossomed and expanded over the last 10 years.
His former student athletes also speak highly of his impact. Former player Josh Folsom said, “At his son Steve's wedding, we sat and talked football for hours. Even decades later, he could recall such vivid details, what down it was, how much time was left, and every detail you could imagine. To this day, when I reminisce about Sandburg football, I reminisce about Coach Navarro.”
Sandburg High School alum and Northwestern University Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald said of his former coach, “Coach Navarro brought a passion every day to practice and is truly a great motivator. He always wanted me to succeed and believe in myself. As Head Football Coach at Northwestern I try to emulate these same values when coaching our football team.”