Frank Navarro Introduced the "Monster Defense" at Williams

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

Frank Navarro played offensive guard at the University of Maryland and graduated in 1953. After a two-year stint in the Air Force Navarro headed to Teachers College at Columbia University, where the Lions head football coach Lou Little offered him the job of assistant offensive line coach under John Bateman in 1955. Little's offer ended Navarro's pursuit of teaching and got him on the path to a career in coaching.

Navarro joined Len Watters' staff at Williams in 1956 as the offensive line coach and freshmen coach. Watters had coached Navarro at White Plans (NY) HS.

As an assistant to Watters, Frank Navarro introduced the "Monster Defense" at Williams and rang up a slew of shutouts in the early 1960s. In 1961 and 1962 the Ephs won 12 games and 8 of those wins came by blanking the opposition.

The monster defense was designed for the linemen to tie up the blockers and allow the linebackers to make the tackles. The monster defense featured a new technique – slanting defensive linemen. The monster or the scrape linebacker was the one who was targeted to make the tackles after the linemen tied up the offensive line.

Frank Navarro joined the Eph staff
in 1956 and left for Columbia
after the 1967 season

Navarro had purchased the notes to the monster defense for $5 or $10 from a service that featured notes from football clinics across the nation. "The University of Arkansas staff spoke about the defense at the University of Texas clinic and back then court stenographers would record what was said and then coaches would purchase the notes," stated Navarro. "Of course, the notes would not have diagrams and when you saw [coach goes to blackboard] you kind of had to use your imagination."

Those asides about the coach going to the blackboard had the Eph staff guessing about what to do in certain situations when using the monster and they were not even sure it was the right defense for the team. However, in 1961 and 1962 Navarro knew he had a special LB in Mike Reily '64 who could make the system work. "The monster defense and Mike Reily were a perfect storm," Navarro pointed out.

"Mike Reily knew the game and studied the game and he could quickly analyze what the offense was up to," remembered Navarro. "The first time we used it was a scrimmage with Dartmouth and it worked so well the Dartmouth head coach Bob Blackman called me the next day and wanted to know two things – who was that Reily kid who made all the tackles and what is that defense all about?"

The monster allowed a "50" defense to morph into a "62" defense and with all of the slants the offensive lineman were missing a lot of blocks and even when they made the block the Eph LBs made the tackles.

In 1963 Navarro succeeded Watters as the Ephs' head coach and over

the next five years rang up a record of 28-11-1 (.713). Navarro witnessed two of the most memorable wins by the Ephs over Amherst in his time at Williams.

His monster defense stymied an overwhelmingly talented Amherst offense in 1961 that had averaged 32 points a game and threw for an unheard of 190 yards a game in a run-dominated era. Williams beat Amherst 12-0 on Weston Field November 18 in one of the all-time great upsets by the Ephs. The monster defense worked to perfection as Mike Reily registered 9 tackles, intercepted 2 passes, and recovered a fumble.

Navarro's 1967 Ephs went 7-0-1 and capped the stellar season in style when standout back Jack Maitland caught a swing pass and made it past the Lord Jeffs on a 40-yard late game-winning TD scamper in the season finale. Williams 14, Amherst 10. "Jack Maitland could run by you and he could run over you and he preferred to run over you," said Navarro. "When Jack caught that pass he was determined to get to the end zone and there was no one who was going to stop him when he got that feeling." 

"One of my biggest thrills in football was watching Jack play in Super Bowl V for the Colts," Navarro stated.

After the 1967 season Navarro left Williams to become the head coach at Columbia (1968-73), before heading to Wabash College (1974-77) and then closed out his coaching career at Princeton (1978-84). Even though Navarro led Wabash to the NCAA title game in 1977 where they fell to Widener, he has always had special feelings for his time at Williams. 

"When I was at Williams it was with a very special group of people," noted Navarro. "They really liked each other. They were like brothers and it didn't matter about their families' means. They all seemed to have the same goal -- to do the best they could. They were hard workers and I enjoyed coaching them. I would go out and teach one day and then go back the next day and I could start from where I left off. They wanted to be coached and that's very satisfying for a coach."

When he left coaching in 1984 Navarro moved with his wife Jill to Charlestown, Rhode Island to live in their summer home. For one year he served as a color commentator for UMass football broadcasts and later spent six years on the broadcasts of the University of Rhode Island Rams. He also spent time working with sons Damon, Brian and Ed on real estate syndication.

A treasured moment of Navarro's time in the Purple Valley came in 1966 when Look magazine commissioned Norman Rockwell to paint a football picture titled "The Recruit," which featured Navarro, football player Dennis Kelly, and trainer Joe Altott.

"Meeting and then working with Norman Rockwell in his studio in Stockbridge was an outstanding time for us," stated Navarro. "Highlighted by the fact that Joe Altott and Dennis Kelly, two of my favorites in football, were the two most important parts in the cast of characters." 

Currently Navarro's and his family's volunteer time is spent with the Compass Fund in New London, CT, a scholarship fund for under served children.

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