B.C. Lions head coach Rick Campbell: Michael Reilly will help teach Canadian QB Nathan Rourke

Photo courtesy: Ohio Athletics

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke is set to make his CFL debut in training camp with the B.C. Lions on July 10 after being selected in the second round of the 2020 CFL Draft.

Head coach Rick Campbell isn’t putting any pressure on Rourke to shoot the lights out early, wanting him instead to focus on getting better each and every day.

“I think it’s just to learn and grow,” said Campbell in a videoconference. “He’s hanging out here in the Vancouver area, so it’s been nice to have him around the facility. The things I do know is he won a lot of games in college, he’s very enthusiastic, he’s got a great work ethic, and he’s got a good attitude.”

The six-foot-two, 210-pound passer threw for 7,457 yards, 60 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions at Ohio University. He also rushed for 2,634 yards and 49 touchdowns on 425 carries, showing off his speed and elusivity.

The Bobcats flourished during Rourke’s tenure, producing a record of 25-14 and winning three bowl games — the Bahamas Bowl in 2017, the Frisco Bowl in 2018, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in 2019.

Campbell expects that star quarterback Michael Reilly will help teach Rourke how to be a successful CFL quarterback. The veteran has won two Grey Cups and a Most Outstanding Player award and is 13 years older than the rookie passer.

“I think it’s going to be great to hang out with a guy like Michael here who’s going to not be afraid to teach him,” said Campbell. “I think it’s a good fit. I don’t know how it’s going to work out but it wouldn’t be surprising to me if he develops over the next couple years into a good quarterback.”

While Campbell appreciates that Rourke is Canadian — he was born in nearby Victoria, B.C. — he’s not going to be treated differently than any of the other players in training camp.

“I know he’s excited as anyone to get out here. I think it’s cool that he’s Canadian but we’ll just treat him like he’s a football player and a quarterback like everybody else and away we go,” said Campbell.

Will Arndt is B.C.’s only backup quarterback with previous CFL experience heading into training camp. He completed 103-of-165 passes for 940 yards, three touchdowns, and six interceptions in 2019 as a member of the Ottawa Redblacks.

Rourke and Arndt will compete against each other along with newcomers D’Angelo Fulford and Shea Patterson for the primary backup role behind Reilly in 2021.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.