Indiana landed a veteran quarterback from the transfer portal last week in 6-foot-5 Ohio University signal caller Kurtis Rourke.
Over five seasons with Ohio including the last three years as the full-time starter, Rourke has thrown for 7,651 yards and 50 touchdowns, with just 16 interceptions.
The Daily Hoosier caught up with Rourke on Monday to learn more about his background and decision to come to Indiana. Here’s our Q&A with the Oakville, Ontario product.
TDH: What stood out about Indiana and made them the place you wanted to play your last season in college?
Rourke – The first thing is the mentality of the coaching staff. They obviously come into a situation where they (Indiana) haven’t had the most ideal seasons, but they came in saying they are going to win right away. They’re not going to rebuild, this is going to be a year they win, because that’s what they do. That kind of mindset is something I admire and try to live by myself.
TDH: I see some parallels with that in your own experience at Ohio, where your team went 3-9 in 2021 and then turned it around and won 10 games the next season. What did you learn from that experience that you think can help make this turnaround at Indiana happen?
Rourke – I think a big part is the leadership of the team. Going back to the 2021 season I think we had all the pieces but we didn’t win those close games. Something that we stressed in the offseason is that we were good enough but we needed to come together, we needed to play as a team. And that came with having some different leaders come out and be vocal, and just really bring the team together and playing as one and not individuals. I think that will be really important coming into this year.
TDH: With this new Indiana staff, did you know any of them from any point in your career?
Rourke – No, I didn’t know anybody. This is new to me.
TDH: So basically IU cold-called you when you entered the portal?
Rourke – Yeah when I entered there was a lot going on and I was able to talk to a bunch of coaches. Coach Tino (new IU quarterbacks coach Tino Sunseri) was the first one to reach out from Indiana, and then I ended up hearing from Coach Cignetti later on.
TDH: Why do you think Tino, and (offensive coordinator Mike) Shanahan and Cignetti have been able to produce such an impressive track record working with quarterbacks?
Rourke – I think a big thing is the offense, and the system they run. It’s very NFL like, and it puts a lot on the quarterbacks, but once understood it seems like it is very effective, and quarterbacks have the ability to shine. They’ve coached a lot of good quarterbacks, and they know what they’re doing, and the do’s and the don’ts, and I think that all comes together with having a really successful track record with quarterbacks.
TDH: Are there quarterbacks that you are often compared to or that you study because you believe there are parallels in your skill sets?
Rourke – Not really, everyone likes to compare to NFL guys, so some people have said (Chargers QB) Justin Herbert because of the long lever and the way he throws. But it’s more just comparisons to my brother (Jaguars QB Nathan Rourke).
TDH: Did you consult your brother on this transfer process, and if so what was his feedback to you?
Rourke – Yeah, he’s been great. He’s a huge role model in my life and always has been so I definitely wanted to get his advice. He just said ‘whatever decision puts you in the best spot two to three years down the road, go with that decision. Seems like a great opportunity at Indiana, so if that’s where you want to go and you feel full support, then I think you’ll do great things there.’
TDH: You had a pretty serious injury (torn ACL) late in the 2022 season. How did that change you as a person or player?
Rourke – Yeah that was the biggest adversity I had faced in my whole life, and especially in football, having a good year as a team, having an opportunity to play for a MAC championship which was a goal, and then getting injured and not being able to play anymore — that hurt. That was really hard for me. I had a lot of questions about why that happened. I learned a lot about dealing with adversity. And I think the biggest thing is just realizing that at any point could be your last play, practice, rep, and so just enjoy it and give it your all every time. I remember coming back and doing a little 7-on-7 in the spring and just enjoying it because I know not only was it a journey to get back there, but also at any point something could happen again, so I just wanted to go enjoy every rep because it is not a given.
TDH: You really fast-tracked your rehab and played again nine months after the injury. Were there mental hurdles you had to get past this season?
Rourke – When I got my surgery Nov. 18 (2022), the first thing I asked was how long is the recovery process, and I took that and tried to get back faster. I worked with our training staff and physical therapist and told them I wanted to get back as soon as I could. I think having that mentality and having those great people around me to encourage me, I was able to get back and fully cleared at eight months which was fantastic, and ultimately be able to play in the first game, which was the goal from the get go. Being fast healing helped as well.
TDH: You’ve played in some Power Five atmospheres like Penn State, Iowa State and Northwestern. What did you learn playing in those games that might help you for a season in the Big Ten?
Rourke – It’s really exciting to walk into a stadium of big program like that who have big resources, big stadiums, fans yelling at you, it was just really exciting playing there. Coming into Indiana, knowing that they seat 52,000, it’s going to be a great challenge, great environment every single time we play. The home games will be much more exciting and I can’t wait to get going.
TDH: Wide receiver Donaven McCulley announced he was returning to Indiana very soon after your announcement. Did you guys connect at all, and what do you think about him after a strong finish to his season?
Rourke – Yeah I’ve seen a little bit of his tape and I know what a huge get that was for us for him to come back and play for IU. I ran into him on my visit and talked to him for a little bit with Coach Tino. He’s a great dude and great character guy, and having that type of talent to come back, I can’t wait to be able to throw the ball with him and get that connection going.
TDH: Are you currently recruiting anyone to join you at Indiana who is currently in the portal?
Rourke – We’ve had a couple guys from Ohio enter the portal. We had a really talented team. The IU coaches are asking me about them and their character and things like that.
Note: Former Ohio wide receiver Miles Cross received an IU offer and visited Bloomington over the weekend.
TDH: Are you planning to enroll in January and be with the team for spring practice?
Rourke – Yes.
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