‘He’s going to be great immediately’: Redblacks’ Dominique Rhymes sees parallels between Dru Brown, Nathan Rourke

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

Ottawa is rolling the dice on an unproven starting quarterback in 2024, but the team’s top receiving threat is ready to place all his chips on Brown.

“I think he’s a great talent,” all-star receiver Dominique Rhymes told TSN 1200’s The Drive this week in reference to projected starter Dru Brown.

“When you have validation from other great players, when Zach (Collaros) told us all, ‘Dru, he’s going to be a good guy,’ you take validation from that because he learned behind a great quarterback. I think he’s going to be great immediately because he’s seen greatness each and every week, each and every day.”

Brown was acquired by the Redblacks via trade this offseason, signing a two-year contract extension with the club. The 26-year-old arrives in the nation’s capital after three seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, where he served as understudy to Collaros.

The two-time Most Outstanding Player has been a vocal advocate for his backup, publicly saying he could be the best QB in the CFL if placed in the right opportunity. The opportunities to showcase that talent have been limited while in Manitoba, though Brown set a new CFL record in 2023 by throwing nine touchdowns without a single interception.

For Rhymes, who returned to Ottawa this offseason after a three-year stint with the B.C. Lions, the situation bears striking parallels to what he experienced in Vancouver.

“It’s kind of like a similar sort of situation to what we had in B.C. when Nathan (Rourke) was behind Mike (Reilly). He learned for the full year and then when he was able to play, he excelled,” he mused. “I’m excited, man. Dru’s a young quarterback. He’s trying to throw touchdowns, he’s trying to sling it and I’m just excited, man.”

Rourke had just 82 career pass attempts when he took over the Lions’ job in 2022, going on a historic tear that resulted in him winning Most Outstanding Canadian and signing an NFL contract despite missing half the year with injury. He is currently a member of the New England Patriots.

Brown has thrown nearly double that amount but has three times the professional experience that Rourke did going into his debut. In 38 career games, the Oklahoma State product has completed 102-of-153 passes for 1,484 yards, 14 touchdowns, and two interceptions, while rushing for 113 yards and five scores.

The biggest difference between the two young passers is that Rourke earned his elevation internally with the Lions, while Brown had to leave Winnipeg for his opportunity. That has been the case for other recent players holding the “next star quarterback” label like James Franklin and Nick Arbuckle with little success.

According to Rhymes, he and the rest of the receiving corps will have to play a major role in helping Brown reach his potential by building trust.

“How you help a young quarterback that’s just coming up is you’ve got to make plays for him. If the ball’s not there, you have to make a play. You have to build his confidence up,” he stressed.

“A quarterback is like an NBA player who’s a scorer; you have to see the ball go in. He’s got to see the ball get completed. It’s my job and all the receivers’ jobs that wherever the quarterback throws the ball, we’ve got to make a play.”

The Redblacks will begin their 2024 season when they host Brown’s former team, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, on Thursday, June 13 at 7:30 p.m. ET.