‘Enjoy him while he’s here’: Stampeders’ Bo Levi Mitchell believes Canadian sensation Nathan Rourke is the real deal

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

There was a time that Bo Levi Mitchell was the 24-year-old quarterback taking the CFL by storm but the now-grizzled veteran isn’t jealous of the league’s latest wunderkind.

Canadian pivot Nathan Rourke has been a dominant force in his first season as a starter, throwing for 2,418 yards, 21 touchdowns and just six interceptions through seven games while posting a ridiculous 81.3 completion percentage.

Mitchell’s Calgary Stampeders are the next opponent in the path of the young star’s 6-1 B.C. Lions, but the two-time Most Outstanding Player will not downplay his counterpart’s accomplishments before their pivotal West Division clash. While some want to take the cautious approach before anointing a player with so little experience, he is firmly on the Rourke bandwagon.

“When people have amazing things happening, stop trying to find a reason to hate on it,” Mitchell told Postmedia’s Danny Austin ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Lions.

“I mean, everybody’s like ‘Oh, they played Edmonton and they’d cut 10 guys.’ It doesn’t matter, I played Edmonton, too, and it’s not anything against Edmonton, that kid’s gone out and balled out every single game he’s been in.”

Rourke is coming off a game against the Elks in which he broke his own single-game record for passing yards by a Canadian, completing 34-of-37 passes for 477 yards and five touchdowns while adding another score on the ground.

Mitchell had a pair of successful outings in his own right against Edmonton, going 21-of-28 for 321 yards and a score in Week 3 before completing 17-of-22 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns in Week 5. Neither compares to Rourke’s domination and the 32-year-old sits well behind the youngster with just 1,655 passing yards and seven touchdowns on the season.

“The worst game he had, I think is Winnipeg, and he still threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He probably threw for more yards against Winnipeg than any other quarterback has this season,” Mitchell said.

“Stop finding a reason to hate on the kid. Love him up and enjoy him while he’s here.”

While Rourke has one year remaining on his rookie contract with the Lions, insiders expect him to receive significant NFL interest in the offseason. Despite his massive CFL success, Mitchell never made the jump down south, reportedly rejecting an offer from the Minnesota Vikings at age 28 when he was told he would not have the opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Rourke may well get that chance, as he is currently on pace to reach heights Mitchell has never come close to. The Canadian is projected to become the first passer to cross the 6,000-yard threshold since 2004 and could shatter the CFL records for both passing touchdowns and completion percentage in a season.

Those accolades remain a long way away, however, and Rourke will need to prove he can continue to put up gaudy numbers against an elite CFL defence like the Stampeders.

Calgary will need to win in all phases in order to pull the upset and move back into second place in the West, but Mitchell doesn’t believe he will have to personally out-duel Rourke to accomplish the feat.

“I’m not worried about outperforming him,” Mitchell said Friday. “I’m worried about putting up more points than they do, whether that’s on offence, defence or special teams. I’m going to do the best to my ability to put up as many points as possible on offence, because they are a team that you have to keep up with. We want to get up on them early and keep it that way.”

Nevertheless, the first meeting between the two properly hyped gunslingers is must-watch viewing for CFL fans when they face off at 5:00 p.m. local time on Saturday.