Canadian QB Nathan Rourke captures attention around North America, including NFL personnel people

Photo courtesy: Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke has captured attention around North America, including NFL coaches and personnel people.

Rourke has already set multiple records for a national QB in the CFL and could break more as the 2022 season goes along.

He holds the single-game passing yards record with 436 and the highest single-game completion percentage at 89.7. The 24-year-old is the second national QB in CFL history to throw four touchdowns with no interceptions and record five total touchdowns in a single game, joining Canadian Football Hall of Famer and Lou Marsh Trophy-winner Russ Jackson.

Scouts south of the border tracked and evaluated Rourke while he was at Ohio University, so there is a foundation of background knowledge to add to for NFL executives. Rourke’s combination of demeanour, efficiency, decision-making, arm strength and athletic ability have been on display to begin his first year as a full-time starter in the pros.

The 24-year-old has completed 87 percent of his passes for 718 yards with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions plus 10 carries for 93 yards and two majors. Two games does not a full season of game film make, but the early production has piqued the interest of onlookers in the NFL.

He’s been the best quarterback in the CFL through two weeks and it’s not even close. Meanwhile, Rourke’s star is rising quickly as he continues to answer anyone who doubted him purely due to his Canadian birth certificate.

“I’ll tell you the truth, there wasn’t any questions within this locker room about anything with this team. Those guys have all the faith in me and that gives me so much confidence,” Rourke said.

“There’s a lot of great things in that locker room and it’s a tribute to those guys. That’s a team effort right there, I’m really proud of them and proud to be a part of this team.”

Defensive back Garry Peters knew his QB was going to dice-up defences from the get-go in training camp when Rourke was carving up a veteran secondary. Peters believes the young quarterback’s leadership has been a key part of boosting the B.C. Lions to a 2-0 record.

“It’s easy to follow guys like that. When you come in the facility, he’s the first one there and I’m one of the last people to leave, he’s literally there after me, walking around, eating a peanut butter jelly sandwich, trying to find something to do,” Peters said.

“He’s always working — no matter what. He’s trying to perfect himself and you can see he’s a young guy, but you can see in his eyes that he’s really hungry. It’s a different look in his eyes when you look at him.”

Co-general manager Neil McEvoy and head coach Rick Campbell noticed Rourke’s makeup was unique during the evaluation process, which led to the Lions making him a second-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft. He learned behind one of the toughest passers the three-down league has ever seen in Michael Reilly in 2021 and has put the teachings into action.

“He’s not putting on a show, what you see is what you get. That’s why I’ve been his biggest fan the last two years,” Campbell said. “He’s a fun guy to be around because his approach to the game is fun to watch.”

Interested NFL observers are quietly keeping tabs from afar, so the Lions best make the most out of Rourke in 2022.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.