It was the second that all of us knew was coming, however none of us needed to reach.
On Sunday morning, CFL followers watched from the entrance porch as younger famous person Nathan Rourke loaded the final of his belongings into the again of a hand-me-down station wagon, waved goodbye, and headed off into the good unknown of the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The feelings being felt throughout the nation proper now are complicated. There’s an intense pleasure and pleasure for what’s to come back however a deep sense of mourning as effectively. That inner battle is totally comprehensible. All of us simply abruptly turned soccer empty-nesters.
Over the previous two years, followers have watched Rourke develop earlier than their very eyes, blossoming into one thing in contrast to something we’ve seen in a technology. He turned a must-watch occasion, a unifying storyline that transcended workforce affiliation. He was the bodily manifestation of a dream whispered for over 50 years; the subsequent nice Canadian quarterback.
It was a title that Rourke usually crammed reluctantly, not in search of to be outlined by his passport. Although he got here out of his shell and revealed a depraved sense of humour because the 12 months went on, Child Canada by no means felt totally snug with the accolades and hyperbole hurled in his course from each nook of the media. On that entrance, I used to be by no means a lot of a assist.
For sixty minutes each week, Rourke felt like an inevitability. His play dazzled and astounded as he sliced by way of helpless defences with deadly effectivity, shattering his personal Canadian passing data time and again. Regardless of the circumstances or the early struggles, there at all times got here a time when he was capable of seize management of the sport. On a few events, opponents have been merely lucky the clock ran out earlier than he was capable of end the job.
For as a lot as his talents appeared otherworldly, the Oakville native got here by his success the best way all mortals do. His work ethic is unparalleled and nonetheless far too little is manufactured from how he fully redefined his throwing mechanics over the course of the pandemic. As soon as considered as an inaccurate and weak-armed passer, many puzzled if Rourke had the mandatory instruments to be a beginning quarterback, even on the CFL degree. By the point he made his 2022 debut, velocity had grow to be his trademark and he would go on to have probably the most correct season in CFL historical past.
There’s little doubt that Rourke underwent that transformation with the hopes of incomes the NFL alternative he was by no means afforded popping out of faculty, however quarterbacking the B.C. Lions was by no means an afterthought to him. When he suffered his Lisfranc sprain in August, his NFL future was seemingly safe and nobody would have batted a watch had he merely determined his 12 months was over. As an alternative, he underwent surgical procedure and pushed by way of rehab to make a miraculous return for the playoffs, combating by way of large ache to attempt to win his teammates a Gray Cup.
Draped over Bryan Burnham’s shoulder in tears after the West Remaining, Rourke had nothing left to offer. He has greater than earned the proper to take a shot at his dream and the generational wealth that comes with it.
No one who watched his meteoric rise might want something however the very best for Rourke. A number of teammates remarked all through the season that they’d in the future inform their youngsters about how they received to play with him and it is going to be the identical for the remainder of us. He’s the newest in a protracted line of CFL myths; the kind of participant who solely turns into extra sensational the farther eliminated you’re from his final snap within the league.
That profile will develop with every ounce of success he has south of the border and each diehard desires that for his sake — and our personal. For as a lot as we wish to pat ourselves on the again for our personal uniqueness and declare isolationism, the Canadian recreation is as a lot formed by its diaspora as it’s by those that select to remain. Rourke’s accomplishments will at all times really feel, a minimum of a bit bit, like ours too.
There is no such thing as a query that his departure leaves an enormous gap and there shall be those that succumb to the despair of an empty home. Rourke helped revived curiosity in one of many CFL’s largest and most beleaguered markets, capturing the eye of younger followers in a manner only a few have. Such a vivid star leaving so early in his profession is sufficient to make nearly anybody flip to nihilism and query the way forward for the league, nevertheless it needn’t be that manner.
The NFL has soundly gained the sport of world capitalism and so they way back did away with any semblance of a degree enjoying discipline, however the CFL thrives partly due to our gamers who proceed to thrive as soon as within the worldwide highlight. Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, Cameron Wake, and Alex Singleton have finished as a lot to drive contemporary expertise to our league since they left as they did to drive ticket gross sales after they have been right here. Rourke would be the similar.
And so, like proud dad and mom, we’ll watch from afar and anticipate the success everyone knows he’s able to, consistently worrying that these round him aren’t appreciating him sufficient or treating him in addition to we do. We’ll preserve his bed room furnished and go away the posters on the wall, secretly wishing that in the future he’ll want to come back residence however realizing that he can stand alone on this planet with out us.
Nathan Rourke was a nightmare for opponents, a pleasure to observe, and the pleasure of a lifetime to cowl. A technique or one other, the CFL will at all times be part of him and he’ll at all times have a spot right here. However now could be his time to do what youngsters have at all times finished; develop up and chase their goals distant from the place all of it started.
All CFL followers can do now could be test his oil, slip him a twenty for fuel, and blame the waterworks on the mud as he heads off down the highway.