Nathan Rourke produced a highly entertaining start to his first season as the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback with the B.C. Lions.
Rourke had the best performance of any QB in the CFL during Week 1 while leading his team to a 59-15 blowout over Edmonton at a buzzing BC Place. The 24-year-old completed 26-of-29 passes for 282 yards with three touchdowns against zero interceptions and rushed seven times for 78 yards and two majors.
“I think it’s awesome, I think it’s a big deal. I know I kind of sound strange sometimes, but I’m not surprised. That’s how he practices, so he’s very consistent,” co-general manager and head coach Rick Campbell said.
“That’s what you’re going to see is that type of player, the way he executes and plays the game with great energy and passion. I’m not talking about scores or stats, he’s going to play that way more times than not.”
According to the three-down league’s head statistician Steve Daniel, Rourke set a new single-game completion percentage record by a Canadian quarterback at 89.7, the previous mark was 79.3. He became the second national QB in CFL history to record five total touchdowns in a single game, joining Russ Jackson who threw four touchdowns and scored one rushing major on September 19, 1966.
Furthermore, Rourke, teammate Michael O’Connor and Elks rookie Tre Ford actively played in the game. That’s the first time in 40 years (September 6, 1982 Luc Tousignant and Gerry Dattilio) that two or more Canadian quarterbacks took the field in the same game. It happened one other time in 1968 with Pete Ohler and Frank Cosentino.
“Hopefully we continue to go in that direction, I think we have some great talent, quarterback or not. Hopefully we’re able to continue to prove that Canadians belong in the CFL,” Rourke said.
Hopefully commissioner Randy Ambrosie is watching and listening to Rourke. Regardless of his passport, the Victoria, B.C. native put forth another reason why Canadians deserve an equal chance at playing the skill positions. Without the “Brandon Bridge rule” — the former CFL passer advocated for Canadian quarterbacks who start to count in the ratio — it’s hard to say for certain whether Rourke would have been given the chance to move up the depth chart.
“He doesn’t subjugate himself as just a Canadian quarterback, he’s more than just that. He wants to be the best and he trains like that,” veteran defensive back T.J. Lee said.
Rourke’s steady demeanor and quiet confidence are keys to his leadership style and that mentality should serve him well as he tries to replicate his Week 1 success consistently through the marathon that is an entire CFL season. The six-foot-two, 209-pound QB has a 2-0 win-loss mark against Edmonton and must prove he can beat the other seven franchises in the league.
“Now we know what we’re capable of,” Rourke said. “And now the goal is to continue to play at this kind of level.”