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2019 Top 25 MAC Players: #1 Nathan Rourke, QB, Ohio

Air Canada is ready to take the MAC by storm once more.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They call him “Air Canada.”

But what makes Nathan Rourke special is not just his playmaking through the air as a quarterback. The senior from Ontario has established himself as one of the best mobile quarterbacks in all of college football, and he has one more season of leading the Ohio Bobcats with dazzling playmaking.

The 6’1”, 210 pound quarterback first debuted in a 59-0 win over Hampton on opening day of 2017. On just six rushes in the game, he scored three times, foreshadowing what was to come. It was Rourke’s first of four rushing touchdown hat tricks that season. He finished with 21 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, ranking third in the FBS and first among all quarterbacks.

As a runner, he nearly hit the 1,000-yard mark, finishing with 907 yards on 137 attempts — a strong 6.6 average. As a passer, Rourke managed to record 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns through the air, leading Ohio to a 9-4 season.

While the rushing numbers slightly declined from 2017 to 2018, it was clear that Rourke improved his game overall. He continued to escape tackles on the regular while running the speed option down to a science. In the passing game, Rourke elevated his completion percentage from 55% to 60%. His yards per attempt increased from 7.5 to 8.9 and his touchdown-to-interception ratio of 17-7 in 2017 improved to 23-8. Lastly, Rourke threw for 231 additional yards on 18 fewer attempts. Throwing on the run is a strength of his and Rourke handles pressure as well as any other quarterback in the country.

On the ground, he remained as lethal as ever, averaging 6.4 yards per carry and posting 860 yards. His 15 rushing touchdowns ranked 16th in the FBS and third among quarterbacks. Once again, with Rourke behind center, Ohio attained the 9-win mark, complete with a bowl victory. Rourke’s last outing was a 27-0 Frisco Bowl shutout over San Diego State, a game in which he produced three total touchdowns and 250 yards of offense.

Rourke’s career-high passing performance is 294 yards in a 2017 win over Miami (OH). In the rushing department, he obtained 189 yards in a victory over UMass last fall. Against Bowling Green in 2018, Rourke threw for four touchdowns, and several weeks later versus Akron, he earned four touchdowns as a runner.

Rourke is a two-time Second Team All-MAC selection, finishing behind Logan Woodside in 2017 and Tyree Jackson in 2018 — both MAC Offensive Players of the Year. Perhaps 2019 is Rourke’s turn for the honor. He’s already designated as a Maxwell Award and Davey O’Brien watch list honoree. One other award left to add to his expanding trophy case is a MAC Championship. Operating the conference favorite’s offense, he has a great shot at using his dual-threat abilities to lead Ohio to its first MAC title in 51 years.