The NFL preseason is an audition for players to showcase their talent to prove they should make a 53-man roster.
When he got his chance on the field, Jacksonville Jaguars third-string quarterback Nathan Rourke delivered a highlight-reel play that saw him break four tackles and then throw a 21-yard touchdown strike to running back Qadree Ollison in Saturday's 28-23 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"It's a bit of a blur," Rourke said after the game, via John Oehser of the team’s website. "I just knew I needed to have a little bit of time, to buy some time. It was a longer route. We had to buy some time to be able to get a completion and then had to buy some time in the pocket. Qadree did a really good job with the scramble rules and I just tried to give him a chance. I'm glad it worked out."
Even Rourke's head coach, Doug Pederson, was impressed by the play.
"The toughness and poise in the pocket, with a couple of guys on him … to make that throw … I haven't seen too many plays like that even in a preseason game," Pederson said, via Garry Smits of Jacksonville.com. "He did a nice job leading that group in the second half. He had a really good second half."
Rourke finished 9 of 17 for 153 yards and a touchdown on the night. He also ran six times for 20 yards and a score. Starting QB Trevor Lawrence went 5 of 6 for 36 passing yards, one touchdown and an interception in two drives. Second-string QB C.J. Beathard completed 6 of 13 passes for 80 yards.
"Nate had some unbelievable plays," Lawrence said. "That was really cool to see him play well. That's what it takes in these preseason games … end of the game, you get a lot of different guys in there. You've got to have some plays like that. He won the game for us."
Rourke's journey started at Fort Scott Community College, where he played for one year before transferring to Ohio University. He showcased his dual-threat ability in three years with the Bobcats by throwing for 7,457 yards and 60 touchdowns and rushing for 2,634 yards with 49 TDs on the ground. He then took his talents to the Canadian Football League and had a stellar 2022 campaign, throwing for 3,349 yards and 25 TDs in 10 games for the BC Lions.
When asked if he saw his performance against Dallas as a sort of "coming out" game in the NFL, Rourke said he's still keeping the same mindset and is determined to continue moving forward.
"It is just a preseason game, but it's fun to be out there," he said, via the team's transcript. "You get to show them what you got, that you can't really do with the plays in practice. It's a good stepping off point that we will continue to build on."
Although Rourke orchestrated a memorable highlight for NFL fans to rave about over the weekend, it will be challenging for him to surpass a veteran like Beathard on the depth chart in just one game. Rourke will have more opportunities to display his skills in the rest of Jacksonville's preseason games against the Detroit Lions on Aug. 19 and the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 26.
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