Photo Cred: Karli Bell

A Big Chip: Nathan Rourke’s Journey to Ohio Football

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In the sport of football, individual greatness is often rewarded with praise and recognition. The best players are identified by the “experts” and rarely slip through the cracks. Ohio’s newest quarterback Nathan Rourke is an exception to that rule.

“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder ever since I came to the states,” Rourke said after the first day of Ohio Football Fall Camp. “I’m a Canadian kid, I’m a juco kid, and I’m a private school in Alabama kid and all three of those things makes for a pretty big chip.”

Originally from Canada, Rourke attended Holy Trinity High School in Oakville, Ontario. His playmaking skill set and athleticism were no match for our neighbors to the north. The 6-foot-2-inch gunslinger led his school to their first Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Championship in 2014.

Having realized his full potential against Canadian high schools, The Ontario native moved down to Elwood, Alabama to continue pursuing his football dream.

Rourke enrolled in Edgewood Academy for his senior season and went nuclear on every team he faced, passing for 3,779 yards, and 66 total touchdowns all while guiding his team to a perfect 13-0 record, culminating in a victory at the AA Alabama State Championship.

Yet despite all of this success against top-notch competition, zero FBS schools made an offer to Rourke. The next step in his journey took him to an unlikely place: Fort Scott, Kansas.

The Canadian arrived at Fort Scott Community College last fall and didn’t waste any time making his presence felt. Rourke started all 11 games for the Greyhounds and despite finishing the year with a disappointing 4-7 record, he flourished behind a patch work offensive line. At season’s end, Rourke had thrown for 2,367 yards and 18 touchdowns, good enough to land him First Team All-KJCC honors.

Now officially on the FBS radar, Rourke got a call from Ohio Football.

The Bobcats wanted to add depth at the quarterback position and Rourke was their man. After signing with Ohio in December, he took advantage of the timing and enrolled into the university for the spring semester.

“I definitely made the right decision in December,” Rourke said. “This is a program that I really wanted to be apart of and I’m just really excited.”

With a full semester to get acclimated to his playbook and life on campus, Rourke now faces his next challenge: Quinton Maxwell.

The redshirt sophomore came into camp as the number one quarterback on the depth chart and deservedly so. Maxwell played in nine games for Ohio last season and was an integral part of a berth in the 2016 MAC Football Championship, now he wants to put a stranglehold on that starting job.

Though he may never get a true chance to hold it.

During his 11 years at the helm of Ohio Football, head coach Frank Solich has finished just one season where his starting quarterback accounted for more than 95 percent of the team’s completed passes. That outlier came during the 2011 campaign when Tyler Tettleton accounted for 265 of the team’s 274 completions.

What does that mean for this group of quarterbacks? Always be ready to compete.

“They both (Maxwell and Rourke) have shown signs of playing as well as we have played at that position in a little while,” Said quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording at Ohio Football Media Day.

Maxwell and Rourke each have the talent to take over that starting job but cementing one of them in that role isn’t a huge priority for the coaching staff.

“We gotta get back to Ford Field,” said Isphording. “In this day and age, look throughout the MAC, throughout the country, it’s more the rule than the exception to have two or three guys play for you in a given season and I want to make sure both those guys are ready for when their time comes.”

As we move closer to the start of the 2017 season, Ohio Football has the luxury of not one, but two capable quarterbacks at their disposal and if they do give the keys to Rourke, don’t expect that chip to shrink.