Playing in the NFL has long been Nathan Rourke’s dream.
Days after inking a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Canadian quarterback is still processing the monumental move.
“I’m still here in BC and I still live at my parents’ house,” Rourke told reporters Tuesday. “When I get down there, it’ll sink in a bit more.”
The past few months have been a busy journey for the Victoria-born 24-year-old.
Shortly after leading the BC Lions to the playoffs in November, Rourke embarked on an extensive tour, coaching for a dozen NFL clubs. Weeks in which he zigzagged the continent discussing deals ended Sunday when he signed a rookie deal with the Jaguars.
After being passed over in the 2021 NFL draft, Rourke joined the Lions, who picked him 15th overall in the 2020 CFL draft.
The six-foot-tall, 209-pound Ohio product spent the 2021 campaign supporting Michael Reilly before taking over as a starter in a stunning campaign last season.
He quickly garnered attention, throwing for 3,349 yards — including three appearances for 400+ yards — with 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 10 regular-season appearances. He added 304 yards on the ground with seven rushing TDs.
A foot injury that required surgery ended his campaign in August, but Rourke returned in the Lions’ regular-season finals and then led the 12-6 team to a 30-16 win over the Calgary Stampeders in the West Division semifinals . BC eventually lost in the West Final 28-20 to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
While Rourke was coaching for 12 NFL clubs, others called to inquire. The final decision fell between Jacksonville, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Cleveland Browns.
The Canada QB heard plenty of advice as he evaluated his options, including some words of wisdom from fellow CFL player Henry Burris.
The three-time Gray Cup champion and Canadian Football Hall of Famer also played in both the CFL and NFL and now works as an offensive quality control coach in Jacksonville.
“He went through that himself and he said if he could do it again he would have liked to have stayed in the CFL because of his timing and the situation he got into,” Rourke said.
“He said the situation isn’t right for him, but if there’s a right situation where I see a chance to play at some point, then I’ll take it. That’s what I do.”
Ready to compete in Jacksonville
Jacksonville already has a solid starter in Trevor Lawrence, who took first place in the 2021 NFL draft. Rourke said he did not want to compete for first place with the 23-year-old native of Knoxville, Tenn.
“I believe [Lawrence is] a fantastic quarterback,” he said. “I wish him all the best this year and will be there to support him next year.
“But my job is to get a job down there. And you never know what’s going to happen – you play well preseason, another team might like you and you go from there. But I think going down there and being a part of that process is the best way to cement a job in the future.”
While playing in his home province was “really special,” Rourke said continuing the game in the CFL just wouldn’t offer the opportunities he’d dreamed of since childhood.
“I think being on an NFL team and getting NFL movies, whether it’s preseason or regular season, is really important to establish yourself as an NFL starter,” he said. “I don’t think it will happen if you play another year in the CFL. I just don’t.
Leading a CFL team taught the young quarterback valuable lessons such as: B. how to be a pro and prepare each week.
The 2022 Lions team is special, Rourke said, and will stay with him no matter where he ends up.
“This is a group I won’t soon forget,” he said. “I think they raised my expectations a bit in terms of what a CFL or a professional dressing room should look like – how good you should feel and how you should feel about your teammates and how shopped you should be. and how you should get to work each day. This group really set a precedent for me.
“So I think throughout my career I’m going to look at this group and say, ‘This is where the bar is being set.’ And I’m really, really lucky for that part of it.”