Navy Quarterback Blake Horvath is Built for the Big Stage

He heads to Ireland having never taken a single snap of college football, but Navy sophomore quarterback Blake Horvath is built for the big stage.

The times, they are a-changin’ for Navy football. When the Midshipmen take to the field in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday to open the college football season against Notre Dame, they do so with a new head coach for the first time since 2008. But that’s not the only thing that’s changed since last season’s 4-8 campaign.

Having never taken a single snap in college, sophomore quarterback Blake Horvath will feature prominently for the Navy offense as either the 1a or 1b of a two-QB system. He makes his Navy debut in front of a global audience. For one afternoon, it’s the biggest stage in college football. Thankfully, the talented quarterback is no stranger to shining when the lights come on.

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Blake Horvath is Built for the Big Stage

As incumbent starting quarterback, Tai Lavatai recovered from a season-ending ACL injury, and Xavier Arline juggled practice with lacrosse commitments, one of the nation’s most intriguing quarterback competitions raged in Annapolis this spring.

The result is a two-quarterback system that will attempt to bamboozle the Notre Dame defense in a game that the world will witness as the season opener for the 2023 college football season. One half of that system is well known to college football analysts and fans alike, with Lavatai leading the Midshipmen for the majority of the previous two seasons.

The other half is somewhat of an unknown. Horvath is a true sophomore who hasn’t set foot on the field in anger since arriving in Annapolis in 2022. He hasn’t taken a single snap in college football, nor suited up as a starter since leaving Hilliard Darby in 2021.

MORE: Navy Midshipmen Top 10 Returning Players in 2023

Don’t mistake that inexperience for a lack of talent, however. Horvath has earned his opportunity to represent the Midshipmen on the biggest stage this weekend with his performances during spring practices and as spring turned to summer camp.

“Excited about Blake,” Navy head coach Brian Newberry enthused during his final media availability before leading his Midshipmen across the pond to Ireland. “Some of the things he’s done, and the element that he adds at quarterback.”

As he prepares to represent the Midshipmen on the biggest stage this Saturday, Horvath might not have a depth of college football experience to draw on. However, as one of the brightest talents in the Ohio high school area prior to his arrival in Annapolis, he is used to performing on the biggest stage, with a proven combination of talent and leadership.

Horvath Knows How to Compete

“Football has shown me how to compete, how to go out and give everything you have for one goal and never give up. I’ve learned just how important it is to be a leader for others around you. There is no doubt in my mind that the skills and lessons I learned will stay with me for my entire life.”

Months before arriving in Annapolis, Horvath stood in front of a crowd at the Ohio Union, the student activity center at the Ohio State University. In the home of his beloved Buckeyes, the young quarterback delivered a rousing speech as he received the Maggied-Romanoff — an award presented by the Columbus Chapter of the NFF as their most outstanding scholar-athlete.

With a 4.55 GPA coming out of Hilliard Darby High School in Ohio, there’s no doubt that he matches the description of an outstanding scholar. You don’t get to the Naval Academy, one of the most prestigious academic establishments in America, without having the scholastic accomplishments or acumen to thrive from an academic perspective.

However, it’s his athletic achievements at Darby that he’ll be relied upon to replicate when he makes his college football debut this Saturday. Horvath might be an unknown to college football fans across the nation, but in Ohio, he was a high school phenom who regularly diced up defenses with his dual-threat ability.

MORE: The Man in Waiting: Inside the Journey of Navy Head Coach Brian Newberry

In many respects, his journey at Darby has already mirrored his short Navy career.

The 6’2″, 195-pound quarterback didn’t play as a freshman in high school either. He had to wait for his opportunity to play, working through a back injury as a sophomore and overcoming the uncertainty and resultant lack of playing time as a junior during the global pandemic of 2020.

When he hit the field as a senior, his first full year of healthy, uninterrupted football, magic happened. In 2021, as a captain and leader, Horvath set school records for rushing yards (1,722), and rushing touchdowns (28) while also throwing for 515 yards and five scores.

He left Darby with the program records for career rushing touchdowns (49) and total touchdowns (57).

Amidst the program records, Horvath also received conference, district, and state recognition for his performances. The dual-threat quarterback earned first team all-district and all-Ohio Capital Conference accolades while earning a spot on the second-team all-state roster. New Penn State starting QB Drew Allar was featured on the first-team roster.

“You want to leave a legacy,” Horvath told the Columbus Dispatch at the end of his high school career. “Other than the people you impact, a great way to leave your legacy is to play the game the best you can.”

Athleticism is the Name of the Game for Horvath

It’s fair to say that Horvath left a lasting legacy at Darby. His name adorns the program record books, and Darby coach John Santagata bemoaned the loss of “a truly dynamic football player” when it was time for him to depart for Navy. But, how does that legacy translate to the field for the Midshipmen, more than 18 months since he last laced them up in Ohio.

It begins with his athleticism.

Horvath was a true dual-threat at Darby who not only shone on the football field as a triple-option quarterback but who also letter for four years on the hard court as a basketball player. His dynamism as a dual-threat, evidenced by his school record rushing numbers, was one of the reasons that he was a stylistic fit with Navy to begin with.

“Of course, I’m familiar with the system that they run,” Horvath told the Columbus Dispatch in February, 2022. “[The triple-option is] a system that I know very well. I feel like I can bring a lot to the table as a runner and I can still learn to develop my skills even more.”

Another element of his time at Hilliard Darby has prepared Horvath for the challenge of being a college quarterback. Before taking the reins of the Darby offense, players are required to play other positions. The dual-threat QB played wide receiver, but more importantly, was also a free safety.

That has helped Horvath to have an elevated understanding of the defensive mindset. He knows how the defense wants to defend the triple-option and can quickly evaluate and key in on opportunities to exploit their weaknesses.

MORE: Navy Offensive Lineman Lirion Murtezi Epitomizes the American Dream 

This is where another element of his game gives him a natural advantage in the Navy quarterback position.

Horvath didn’t throw a ton in high school, he didn’t have to. Hilliard Darby ran the ball down their opponents’ throats and they did it for fun. Just because he didn’t have to sling it, doesn’t mean that he can’t, as Hilliard Bradley head coach Mike LoPara found out during an early-season 21-13 loss in 2021.

“Blake is a very talented guy,” LoPara told PressProsmagazine.com in the wake of that game. “We knew they had that ability to throw it because he’s a tremendous quarterback. He’s one of the best in the entire area. Nobody knows it, because they don’t throw it much.”

That might not seem relevant for a service academy offense, but remember in the introduction when we said that times were a-changing at Navy? That’s not restricted solely to the coaching and playing staff.

As college football evolves, so must all the teams.

Changes in regulations to outlaw the chop block have hamstrung option offenses and required them to reassess, to retune. The result won’t be an Air Raid offense in Annapolis, but there will be not-seen-before “wrinkles,” and we’re likely to see more elements of a passing game in the Navy offense than we’re used to.

Horvath has those elements in his game, and he’s used to deploying them on the biggest stage. The stage on Saturday might be bigger than the last one he walked out on, but the Navy QB is built for it.

He enters Ireland as an unknown commodity, but Horvath could be about to write a new legacy for the Midshipmen.