In it for the long haul. Nathan Rourke is ready to live out his dream as a NFL QB after signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars


It has always been Nathan Rourke’s dream to play in the National Football League.

This winter he took his time deciding what place would offer him that opportunity. After working out with nearly half of the teams in the league, Rourke believes the best spot for him was with the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Sunday, the quarterback announced he would be heading south after agreeing to a contract with the Jaguars.

Michael Ball spoke to the Most Outstanding Canadian in the Canadian Football League (CFL) last season on Tuesday’s edition of the SportsCage.

In 2022, Rourke had 3,281 passing yards with 25 touchdowns in the first nine games with the BC Lions before he suffered a sprained foot against the Saskatchewan Roughriders on August 19. The QB would miss all but one of the Lions remaining games before starting in the Western Semi-Final loss to the Calgary Stampeders.

After leading the Lions as the team’s starter in 2022, Rourke was looking for the best chance to compete as a backup quarterback in the NFL, and he thinks the Jaguars will give him a chance to develop.

“They were big on me from the beginning, they were very interested, they wanted me to compete as the number two guy. ”

The 24-year-old feels he has a legitimate shot of being the Jaguars backup quarterback next season. He said he was not interested in going to a team that would have placed him on the practice squad and believes he would have been better off back with the Lions if that was the choice he was faced with

The former Ohio Bobcat will likely have to wait before a starting opportunity arises. He says that any CFL quarterback heading to the NFL will probably have to earn their chance before it happens.

“I don’t think teams are going to give you a NFL starting job right off the bat without going through the system a little bit which is why we’re doing it now.”

Jacksonville currently has two quarterbacks on their roster. Trevor Lawrence is fully entrenched as the team’s starter. The number one pick of the 2021 NFL Draft has recovered from a disappointing rookie campaign and rebounded by leading the Jaguars to a divisional title and a playoff victory against the L.A. Chargers this past weekend.

C.J. Beathard is the current backup for Jacksonville. The former third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers is scheduled to become a free agent this upcoming offseason. He has only attempted 13 passes for Jacksonville over the last two years after spending his first three seasons with San Francisco.

A big reason for the turnaround in Jacksonville this season has been head coach Doug Pederson. Taking over from Urban Meyer, the former Eagles head coach has done a great job with Lawrence’s development says Rourke.

“I think you definitely see a huge progression in terms of just, what they’re asking him to do but also understanding the game.”

There are plenty of CFL connections on the Jaguars coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy finished his playing career with the Calgary Stampeders in 1999 as a backup to current Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson. The former Lion thinks success in the CFL catches the eyes of many coaches in the NFL.

“That goes to show you that I think the respect people have for the CFL, maybe it’s not so obvious, but people who are involved in football really have respect for the people that come from out there.”

Another coach on the Jacksonville staff with CFL connections is Henry Burris. The Jags offensive quality control coach spent parts of 17 seasons in Canada as a quarterback with the  Roughriders, Stampeders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa REDBLACKS.

Burris was in a similar situation as the Victoria product when he ventured south of the border after his first season with the Roughriders (2000) and signed with the Green Bay Packers in 2001. He would move on to the Chicago Bears the following season. After a short stint with the Berlin Thunder of NFL Europe, Burris would return to the Roughriders in 2003.

Rourke said the CFL Hall of Famer offered him advice during his workouts.

“The situation that he (Burris) went down to, wasn’t something that he would do again. He felt that he left the CFL too early.”

Despite the opportunity of a dream of signing with an NFL team like the Jaguars, it was not an easy decision for Rourke to leave the Lions and the CFL. With BC falling short of their quest for a Grey Cup championship this past season, the QB said it was difficult leaving.

“I really wanted to run it back one more time with that team.” He added the teammates inside of the locker room and the people within the Lions organization made the decision of leaving BC tough.

The two-time winner of the Jon Cornish Trophy for Top Canadian Player in NCAA Football was able to build a solid fanbase across the country during his stint with the Lions. He feels grateful for the chance to play in the CFL.

“It was really special to go to away stadiums, some great places to play in, a lot of passionate fans across the country that were fans of me, I really appreciate that. I know there’s a lot of pride CFL fans take in their Canadian players and I hope that continues with the next batch of guys. ”

In a league filled with superstars, not too many will have an entire country supporting them like Rourke will have, hopefully for years to come.

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