Nathan Rourke excited to be Lions’ backup QB, sets new goal to start a game in 2021

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

Nathan Rourke was officially named the B.C. Lions’ backup quarterback on Monday following the release of veteran Will Arndt.

“It was obviously great news and something that I had planned or at least set a goal to get to at the beginning of training camp,” said Rourke in a videoconference. “It’s pretty cool to get that done.”

Born in Victoria, B.C. and raised in Oakville, Ont., Rourke admitted that he had a hard time sleeping on Sunday after telling his parents the good news. He couldn’t wait to hit the field as B.C.’s official No. 2 quarterback for the first time on Monday, which he did in a morning practice session in Kamloops.

“Training camp has been a lot of unknown and competing,” said Rourke. “For them to have that vote of confidence in me is special and I was just excited to get on the field.”

The two-time Jon Cornish Trophy-winner passed for 7,475 yards and 70 touchdowns at Ohio University while also adding 2,639 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground. He was a second-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft, becoming the highest-drafted Canadian quarterback in two decades.

Earning the No. 2 quarterback spot was Rourke’s first goal in training camp. Having now achieved it, he has his sights set on a new goal: to start his first CFL game.

“Looking at the 2019 season, I don’t think any CFL starting quarterbacks played all 18 games,” said Rourke. “Obviously, I wish the best for this team and at this point we definitely want Mike (Reilly) to be the guy and to be healthy and we’re a much better football team if he’s playing there. My goal right now is to work to the point where they feel just as comfortable with me in there.”

Photo courtesy: B.C. Lions

Rourke has a lot of work to do to match Reilly, who was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player in 2017. The young passer isn’t shying away from that and is determined to learn as much as he can as a CFL rookie.

“There’s still a lot of stuff do,” said Rourke. “I’m definitely not a finished product but it’s great to see [Michael Reilly’s] reps and see how he’s executing stuff and learning from that. The biggest thing for me was just knowing my responsibilities and knowing what other people were supposed to do.”

The B.C. Lions start the 2021 regular season on Friday, Aug. 6 with a visit to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Reilly will get the start, but Rourke will be ready if called upon as the team’s primary backup.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.