Edgewood quarterback Nathan Rourke was named the Player of the Week and presented this week at the club. He is shown with former Unv. Georgia coach Vince Dooley (left) and Edgewood Academy coach Bobby Carr. (Staff Photo)
By Tim Gayle
(October 15, 2015)
Montgomery Quarterback Club officials picked the perfect time to award their weekly player of the week honor to Edgewood Academy quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Rourke, who could have been selected for any of his weekly performances that have steered the Wildcats to a national-best 66 consecutive wins, threw four touchdown passes in last week’s 61-16 win over Northside, giving him an Alabama Independent School Association-record 40 touchdown passes this season.
Rourke’s last touchdown pass broke the record of 39 set by Kyle Moore of Edgewood in 2003 and later tied in 2012 by former Wildcat signal caller Dylan Ingram.
“This is what’s crazy,” Edgewood Academy coach Bobby Carr said. “All 40 touchdown passes have all been in the first half. The only half he played the second half in was the (season opening) Escambia game and he threw four in the first half and he didn’t throw any in the second half.”
Had he another year – or perhaps four quarters in every game – he could chase the career record for AISA passing touchdowns, set first by Josh Niblett (81) at Glenwood School in 1992 and broken about a decade later by Ryne Rials (83) at South Montgomery County Academy.
Instead, Rourke will have to be content with chasing the single-season state record. With the AISA record already in hand, he can try and break American Christian Academy quarterback Chris Smelley’s record of 59 touchdown passes set in 2005 or Pike County quarterback Chris Nickson’s 67 touchdowns accounted for in 2003. Rourke, who has accounted for 43 touchdowns this season, has two regular-season games remaining and will play in five more games if he reaches the state finals as expected.
“I’m just kind of taking it game by game,” Rourke said. “I’m not really worrying about that. We’re having a lot of success on offense but that’s mainly because of what coach Carr is doing and the weapons that we have. It’s a really good system for me to be in, so I think that’s why I’ve had so much success.”
Rourke threw 33 touchdown passes at Holy Trinity Catholic in Oakville, Ontario, before enlisting the help of Justin Dillon at 730 Scouting to find an American high school program for him to play at in order to enhance his marketability to college recruiters.
“I don’t know what my expectations were going in (to the 2015 season), I really don’t,” Rourke said. “I think last year’s (Edgewood) team had two really good running backs in Josh Crawford and Herman McKenzie and their offense was a little bit geared toward something else. This year, the main goal is spreading the ball to our athletes in Jackson Tate, Maurice Young and Daniel Green, getting them the ball and letting them go to work. I think that’s our influence and our focus this year.
“The main thing for me is I’m getting better. Going in, that was my goal.”
Unfortunately for Rourke, many college programs target their quarterbacks during their junior seasons, meaning many of the top programs already have the one quarterback they planned to sign in February, 2016.
“Tennessee told me we love him, but we’ve already got our 2016 commitment,” Carr said. “Vanderbilt came and watched us play the other night and offered Khalid Young, a 10th grade linebacker, and Kelvin Lucky. That’s the problem we’re dealing with. Most schools are only going to sign one. That’s what we’re struggling with now.
“Missouri called the other day. They weren’t going to sign one (but might now). Kansas just called, Fresno State just called. And the thing about him is it doesn’t have to be in the South. He’s 2000 miles away from home.”
Rourke experienced another first on Tuesday night with his appearance at the Montgomery Quarterback Club.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “I’m not sure really what to expect. We don’t have this kind of thing back home, but I’m glad to be a part of it and I’m really honored to be here.”
Carr has a team full of candidates for the honor, but was happy the QB Club selected Rourke.
“David Bowen and these guys do an unbelievable job honoring all these kids in the tri-county area, not just the Edgewood kids,” Carr said. “It’s good to see them to get an honor. As far as Nathan, this whole thing is surreal. Football is at a whole other level in the States as compared to Canada. And he’s handled himself extremely well. The thing you don’t see is the leadership, the knowledge of the game, just the way he carries himself. If someone else screws up, he takes the blame. He’s just a natural-born leader.”
The Wildcats seek their 67th consecutive win on Friday at Springwood School. Edgewood closes out the regular season at Fort Dale before returning home on Nov. 6 for the first round of the AISA state playoffs.
“I’m not going to label him the best quarterback we’ve ever had until he holds that trophy up at the end of the season,” Carr said, “but he’s got it all. He can throw, he can run, he’s a tremendous leader. When I saw him on film, we had a need at quarterback. A guy named Justin Dillon called me out of the blue. He just fell into our lap.”