Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke has unexpectedly become the wildcard of the 2020 CFL draft.
It was surprising that no NFL team offered a contract to Rourke following the NFL draft. Many talent evaluators behind the scenes expected the 21-year-old to be signed south of the border. The fact Rourke is free presents an entirely new possibility for CFL franchises.
If Rourke was an American quarterback, CFL teams would have raced to add his name to a negotiation list during or after his first season at Ohio University. For the sake of comparison, let’s view the Oakville, Ont. native as a pure signal caller with no designations.
“Rourke would be the backup quarterback on six of the nine CFL teams right away. It’s rare you can get a prospect of his calibre at QB in the draft,” one CFL talent evaluator said.
“He has better NCAA production than almost every quarterback occupying a neg list spot at the moment. For some stupid reason the Canadian label is viewed as a negative.”
Under the current collective bargaining agreement, it counts towards the ratio of seven required nationals if a Canadian pivot starts under centre. Retired national QB Brandon Bridge fought to push the rule forward during his time in the league and left a legacy for the future at the game’s most important position.
“Brandon Bridge has done some really good things in terms of highlighting the problems with Canadian quarterbacks not being counted as Canadian. We can count quarterbacks as Canadians and that will grow the position in Canada,” Rourke said.
There are multiples franchises intrigued by Rourke’s potential. He has the even keel demeanor and studies hard. Rourke took notes during team interviews in order to understand each situation to the best of his ability and be prepared for draft day.
Along with Rourke’s intangibles, clubs covet the opportunity to secure him for three years. Per the CBA, all nationals are required to sign a minimum two-plus-one rookie contract and follow the salary grid. Players selected in the first two rounds can be paid a $65,000 base salary in years one and two with a maximum signing bonus/housing allowance of $7,500 and up to $7,500 in playtime incentives, maxing out at $80,000.
“Salary cap value combined with the ability to come in and run your short yardage package instantly while developing into a potential starter means he’s well-worth the high draft pick investment,” one CFL general manager said.
“Question is who jumps up and takes him? With lots of teams needing an upgrade he’s a hot commodity. If he can win a starting job as a Canadian at an American school, the CFL competition won’t faze him.”
Rourke produced 109 total touchdowns while in Athens, Ohio, capping the best NCAA career by a Canadian quarterback in a long time. Ohio has won five Bowl games in their program’s history with three coming under the guidance of “Air Canada” — a nickname he received from his teammates.
Bridge had the same moniker at Alcorn State and South Alabama, which followed him when he flew north. Rourke could pickup the trajectory for Canadian quarterbacks and fly even higher.