Canadian QB Nathan Rourke heeded advice from Bo Levi Mitchell for making NFL jump

Photos: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation & Jeff Vinnick/B.C. Lions. Photo edit: 3DownNation.

Nathan Rourke listened to the advice of a future Canadian Football Hall of Fame quarterback before making his decision to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“The draft is very important to the NFL, free agency and veteran quarterbacks are very important. I don’t think that they’re looking to other places [for quarterbacks.] I don’t think that if I would have played another year in the CFL that I would have had the opportunity to start or at least compete to be the starter,” Rourke told 3DownNation.

“You look at someone like Bo Levi [Mitchell] who was a Grey Cup-winning, multiple MOP and he didn’t even have that opportunity back when he tried out I think it was for the Vikings.”

Mitchell completed an NFL workout tour following the 2018 CFL season after being named the league’s Most Outstanding Player and Grey Cup MVP for the second time in his career, visiting seven teams south of the border. He was 28 at the time and received significant interest from Minnesota, though the Vikings had no intention of allowing him to compete for a starting role. He ultimately signed back with the Calgary Stampeders on a four-year extension.

Rourke and Mitchell connected at the CFL awards during Grey Cup week in Regina where Rourke was named the league’s Most Outstanding Canadian. Mitchell shared his experiences with the Canadian phenom, including the importance of finding the right fit south of the border to ensure there is a legitimate path toward earning a roster spot.

“He told me that exact story. I think that if the goal is to be playing the NFL, which it is for me, I think with what my age is and being young and being younger than some of the quarterbacks that are coming out, there’s still a lot of room to develop and grow. And the sooner that we get to the NFL, the sooner that process of becoming a starter can happen.”

Rourke will look to back up former first-overall NFL Draft pick Trevor Lawrence in 2023 with a long-term goal of becoming an NFL starter.

“I have an opportunity to go down, be a number two and get some good preseason film on, which is big, and then be in position to be one play away if something were to happen to Trevor. And then for the team not to skip a beat and get some film that way, maybe something happens down the road from another team,” Rourke said.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen unless you’re down in the NFL, you’re able to get those reps, get that film and for people to evaluate you on Sunday, so I think that those are all things that went to that decision. Trevor’s a great quarterback and I think there’s a lot to learn from him and he’s had a great year. I think that system definitely fits his strengths and I think that a lot of his strengths are things that I can do well.”

The Jaguars won the AFC South with a 9-8 record this past season, a remarkable improvement following a disastrous 3-14 campaign in 2021. The Jags recently completed a 27-point postseason comeback over the Los Angeles Chargers to advance to the divisional playoff round against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Doug Pederson, who was hired to replace Urban Meyer this past off-season, is known for developing offences that play to the strengths of his quarterbacks. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to a victory in Super Bowl LII with NFL journeyman Nick Foles behind centre.

Pederson’s wisdom was reflected in Lawrence’s production this season as he threw for 4,113 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions over 17 starts in his second season at the helm for a passer rating of 95.2. In 2021, his passer rating was 71.9 as his threw for 3,641 yards with 12 touchdowns  and 17 interceptions under Meyer.

Rourke noted Lawrence’s improvement under Pederson and believes he can benefit from learning under both men in Jacksonville to point his trajectory upwards as an NFL quarterback.

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