ROCHESTER –– A fall with no football? Parker Navitsky almost couldn’t believe it was a reality.
But after the MSHSL pushed football to the spring, Navitsky didn’t sit on his hands. He immediately decided he was going to pick up another sport.
The John Marshall senior played soccer up until eighth grade. So, he decided he was going to join the Rockets’ soccer team this fall. He had plenty of rust to knock off. He had to learn the entire terminology. But he was athletic enough to earn a part-time goalkeeper gig.
“When football went to the spring, I was like, ‘Well, here’s my opportunity to play a sport I like again,’” Navitsky said. “I’d get to meet some new people on the soccer team, and stay active and compete throughout the fall. It was really fun. The team really appreciated me. Football players don’t play soccer. That really doesn’t happen. So they said that they appreciated that I’d come out.”
But when the MSHSL reversed course and said that football was going to start back up again, Navitsky was in a bind. He has aspirations of playing college football one day. The coronavirus has sent the world of recruiting into an absolute tizzy. No recruiting visits have been allowed. The valuable summer camps where dozens of different programs could find hidden gems were shut down, too, making game film more valuable than ever before.
So, Navitsky knew he had to leave the soccer team and get back out on the football field.
Even though Navitsky had a ton of potential as a keeper, JM soccer coach Abdul Noor was completely understanding.
“I told them that I will sit on the sideline with the soccer team but I had to play football,” Navitsky said.
Concordia-Moorhead, Dordt University and the University of Minnesota, Morris are three of the main schools pushing for Navitsky and a big senior season could help his recruitment blow up. Navitisky got off to a hot start last Saturday. Even though John Marshall let a 19-12 second-half lead slip in a 34-19 loss to rival Century, Navitsky was a beast on both sides of the ball.
“Just being under the lights with your team was just something special,” Navitsky said. “Especially after not doing it for over a year.”
The Rockets' standout inside linebacker had a big interception in the first quarter which set up John Marshall’s first touchdown of the season.
Navitsky played wide receiver for most of his career, but he’s bulked up enough to play running back now too. He tallied 10 carries for 71 yards and three receptions for 55 yards last week.
"Parker has been awesome," JM football coach Kevin Kirkeby said. "I've coached him since 10th grade. I've known him since ninth grade. He's a wonderful kid. He works so hard. I love coaching him. He's competitive. He's one of the most competitive kids I've ever coached. He has some of the best hands on the team. He runs hard. He's strong. He did everything he could in the offseason to get ready. He played soccer. I think he had a really nice game, and I think he gets overlooked on defense. He did so many things well on defense."
John Marshall got the full Isaiah Huber experience on Saturday, as the star Century running back erupted for four total touchdowns. But the Rockets think that they have something cooking in 2020. Navitsky is going to be a huge part of that puzzle.
“This team is different than the last couple years,” Navitsky said. “Usually at JM, we don’t start well. We’d start slow but on Saturday, we came out firing. We were the more physical team for the first three quarters. I think we’re going to be able to win some games that people are counting us out of. I love our passing game. Our running game is strong. Our defense is well-rounded.”
The road won’t get easier. They’ll host perennial powerhouse Owatonna on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 1 p.m.
“We just have to finish,” Navitsky said. “That’s one thing we are focusing on this week.”
But first, Navitsky took his place on the sideline for the John Marshall soccer team on Thursday as it tangled with Owatonna in the first round of the Section 1AA tournament.
Because playing two sports is better than one.