Nathan Rourke works out with the Lions. (BC Lions/Special to The News)

There’s a Lion in Maple Ridge

CFL club’s backup quarterback Rourke makes Ridge his home

Maple Ridge has a resident Lion.

The BC Lions backup quarterback Nathan Rourke is living in the city with his parents as he starts his career in the CFL.

This guy could be the man at the controls of the Lions offence someday.

Rourke established himself as a dual threat quarterback during a great career in the NCAA. The Lions picked Rourke with their second-round pick in the 2020 CFL Draft, and his 15th overall selection is tied with Jesse Palmer as the highest ever for a Canadian QB in league history.

“I’m proud of it,” he said of his draft selection. “I’m definitely aware that a Canadian player at a skill position can make a big impact – it’s good for the team and good for the CFL.”

Every CFL team must have at least 21 Canadians on game-day rosters, and at least seven must be starters.

Rourke’s college career had great moments, and in his senior season with the Ohio University Bobcats he threw for 2,676 yards and 20 touchdowns, and rushed for another 780 yards and 12 TDs.

His team won the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and Rourke was named the most valuable player of the game. That was his third straight bowl victory, as he was also under centre for wins in the Bahamas Bowl and the Frisco Bowl.

Rourke has had NFL interest, and worked out at the New York Giants mini-camp from May 14-16. However, the QB was asked to try out with the receivers, as the Giants already have four quarterbacks on their roster.

“It was interesting for me to be a wide receiver,” he said, but Rourke wants to make it as a pro quarterback. It’s been his dream, and to get a taste of the NFL world was great.”

“It’s surreal to be in that environment,” he said.

There is generally more throwing in three-down football, and more space on the CFL field. Rourke is confident he has a skill set that can help the Lions win.

In an era of great running quarterbacks, this elusive QB actually is most impressed with the pivots who can pick apart a defence. It’s the all-time greats like Tom Brady and Drew Brees he would like to emulate.

“Mentally, and from a pre-snap standpoint, they’re so engaged,” he said. “I think you can play longer, and have more success, if you’re able to mentally beat your opponent.”

READ ALSO: CFL pushing back start of season nearly 2 months due to COVID-19

Rourke is going to pick the brain of Lions starting QB Mike Reilly, a QB he points out has won a Grey Cup as the game MVP, and was named a CFL Most Outstanding Player while with the Edmonton Eskimos. He is one of just three players in league history to throw for more than 5,000 yards for three straight season.

“He’s an amazing person to learn from,” said Rourke.

He’s comfortable in his new home back in B.C.

“It’s a really good opportunity – the fact that I’m from here, and have family here, is an added bonus.”

Rourke was born in Victoria, but spent much of his youth in the Greater Toronto Area. His parents Larry and Robin Rourke moved to Maple Ridge less than a year ago.

READ ALSO: BC Lions call on Vernon standout in CFL draft

Football is about stats, and CFL players continue watching the case numbers and vaccination statistics, hoping that there will be a season this year. The CFL has a target date of Aug. 5 to kick off the 2021 campaign, and plans to soon announce a 14-game regular season schedule.

Rourke signed a three-year contract with the Lions, with an option for a fourth, in May.

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