Canadian QB Kurtis Rourke follows CFL brother’s path as Ohio Bobcats’ signal-caller
ATHENS, Ohio (BVM) – Football talent has never been lacking for the Rourke brothers. It begins with Nathan Rourke, who starred at Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School in Oakville, Ontario, and later Edgewood Academy in Alabama.
Rourke went on to play in Kansas at Fort Scott Community College and then transferred to Ohio University where he became a three-year starter. Rourke’s standout college career led him to an opportunity to chase professional football. He has since landed back in his home country of Canada, playing in the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the BC Lions.
However, the family’s talent has not stopped there. Kurtis Rourke has followed in the footsteps of his older brother, starring in high school and now at Ohio. As he continues his career with the Bobcats, the family’s legacy is continuing to grow.
For Kurtis, his time in the sport began early as he played organized football at just 4 years old. It initially was in large part because of Nathan, as Kurtis wanted to do anything his older brother was doing growing up.
“It was at the same time when my brother wanted to play, and at that time in my age, I just wanted to do whatever he did,” Kurtis said.
After a few years of playing, Kurtis found his own love for the game, and that translated to success on the gridiron. The quarterback competed locally around Oakville, Ontario, playing alongside multiple future CFL players.
“It was always fun to compete with them,” Kurtis said. “We were just really good and really talented together so we won a lot of championships.”
Kurtis began realizing he had special arm talent during his youth, and that continued to be seen during his high school career. During his ninth and 10th-grade years, Kurtis played at Holy Trinity in Oakville alongside his brother.
As his brother headed down to Alabama for his senior season, Kurtis followed. However, he rode the bench for most of that year, leading to a return to Holy Trinity the following season.
From there, the quarterback began to blossom. After a strong season during his 12th-grade year, Kurtis took advantage of Canada’s opportunity to play an extra high school season, and it ultimately helped him to begin receiving college looks.
“I took that and was able to get an offer,” Kurtis said. “Without Canada offering that extra year, I really wouldn’t be here and it’s just awesome how things worked out.”
Kurtis had offers within Canada after 12th grade, but began receiving interest from several Mid-American Conference (MAC) schools as he played his extra year. While schools like Buffalo were strong considerations, it was no surprise Kurtis ended up at Ohio.
“I had a little in with Ohio just because Nathan was there,” Kurtis noted. “But they weren’t really high on me at the time.”
However, by the spring of that year, Ohio came and watched Kurtis throw. Soon after, he was destined to become a Bobcat.
“It was a pretty clear choice for Ohio,” Kurtis added. “Just their tradition, the culture and the coaching staff, that’s pretty much all still there. I just knew the timeline of quarterbacks was really favorable for me, I had a chance to come in and compete.”
In his true freshman season in Athens, Ohio, Kurtis would see action in just one contest and ended up redshirting. However, it was a valuable year of learning for the new quarterback, and also a special year being able to suit up alongside Nathan.
“It was almost like a dream come true,” Kurtis said about playing alongside Nathan at Ohio. “Coming in as a freshman with nobody from your high school at all, just being able to know someone like your brother to help show you the ropes, not even just with football but how to deal with college and the college life … I truly appreciate that year. It’s been something that we’ve thought about growing up and we were finally able to do that … He taught me a lot of things and gave me insight a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t have given a young freshman. That relationship has really helped me and given me confidence these last couple of years when I’ve been on my own.”
The tight bond and the confidence gained from each other is nothing new for the Rourke brothers. For Kurtis, competing with Nathan brought about a lot of his love and competitiveness in the sport, which has not stopped to this day.
“He’s meant so much to me and my football career,” Kurtis said. “We competed in everything growing up so I got a lot of competitiveness from him and from that relationship with him. We both push each other. He’s come along so much. He’s trying to take the best arm in the family but I’m trying to not let him do that.”
Nathan concluded his Ohio career by leading the Bobcats to three straight bowl games and becoming the first two-time winner of the Jon Cornish Trophy, awarded to the top Canadian player in the NCAA.
He amassed nearly 7,500 passing yards, over 2,600 rushing yards and 119 total touchdowns as a Bobcat. His senior year was his best, being named a first team All-MAC player. After his college career, Nathan was selected in the second round of the 2020 CFL Draft by the BC Lions.
After an NFL tryout with the New York Giants this past May, Nathan went back to the Lions for the 2021 season, earning two starts. While he continues to progress as a pro, Kurtis has begun finding the same success Nathan once had at Ohio.
However, the transition to starting quarterback was not always an easy one for Kurtis, simply because of the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic brought about a lot of uncertainty for all college athletes, and the MAC ended up playing a shortened 2020 season in which Ohio was only able to play in three of its six scheduled games.
“It was just a weird transition,” Kurtis said. “It’s nothing that you want to happen. The uncertainty was immense, honestly.”
Yet, Kurtis was able to get a head start on further learning the playbook and growing physically and mentally. By the time he did get to compete on the field, he showed his potential right away, throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start against Central Michigan.
After getting his feet wet in 2020, Kurtis became the full-time starter for the Bobcats this past fall. While his team didn’t have the season they had hoped for, the redshirt sophomore showed promising flashes, throwing for over 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns, highlighted by a 308-yard performance against Kent State in October.
“It wasn’t the season that we were looking forward to as a team and we felt like we underachieved a little bit,” Kurtis said. “Had some great moments and great stretch of games … But personally, there’s a lot I have to work on and a lot of preparing I have to do. I had some great stretches of games but then I would have some really inconsistent games as well.”
As the Bobcats’ team captain continues to work to improve, his biggest goal on the horizon for 2022 is to win a MAC championship. He also wants to get better both mentally and physically, perhaps to the point where he can follow his brother as a pro player.
Being compared to his brother is naturally something that happens a lot for Kurtis. However, he is his own player, and continues to be motivated by the opportunity to make his own name for himself.
“I’ve been living in his shadows for I can’t even remember how long,” Kurtis said. “It doesn’t really affect me anymore or bother me because we’re completely different quarterbacks. We share the same last name and same family, but I think we’re completely different quarterbacks and I just have a little extra confidence and motivation to prove some of the people wrong who said that I would never reach that potential.”
While both brothers continue to add to the family name, they are also representing Ontario and Canada as a whole.
“It’s an honor to come from Ontario and come from Canada,” Kurtis mentioned. “I’m glad that we’re able to play football at a high level from Canada; that’s something that never happened a while ago. I’m grateful to be where I’m at and hope that I continue to make Ontario and Canada proud.”
Both Kurtis and Nathan have already made their home very proud, but the ultimate way to continue doing so may be pursuing their dreams. With Nathan already in the CFL, Kurtis continues to be motivated to chase a professional career. Playing alongside each other again would be nice, but having the chance to compete against each other at the highest level would be a dream come true.
“It’s surreal to see him playing professional football even though I knew he was going to get there eventually,” Kurtis said. “It’s awesome to see him succeeding … I know he’s just going to keep getting better. His ultimate goal is the NFL and so I know he’ll get there as well and get a shot there.
“That’s been my goal as well since I was young, to play in the NFL, to play football as long as I can. One of the biggest things that we’ve talked about is not just playing with each other, but playing against each other. It’s something that would be awesome. That would be the best thing that could ever happen. That’s one of my goals, that’s one of our goals, and we’re halfway there. He’s just waiting on me now.”