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Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke tries to escape Central Michigan defense during the homecoming game on October 7, 2017. (MIJANA MAZUR | FOR THE POST)

Football: What former Bobcats are up to in the CFL

While Ohio is on its way to the MAC Championship, some of its alumni are having their own success in the Canadian Football League. 

Here a list of former Bobcats who just finished up their seasons in the CFL:

Nathan Rourke 

Arguably the most successful Bobcat in the CFL last season was quarterback Nathan Rourke. He was drafted by the BC Lions in 2020, and after a mostly uneventful rookie season, Rourke had a breakout year in 2022. He came out strong, completing 26-29 passes for 282 yards and three touchdowns in the Lions first game on June 11. 

From there, Rourke’s success only grew. On June 25, he threw for 436 yards against the Toronto Argonauts and broke the CFL single-game passing record for Canadian players, which had stood for 41 years. At the beginning of August, Rourke began to get international attention after throwing for almost 500 yards in back-to-back games. 

However Rourke’s season came to a pause on Aug. 19. He suffered a Lisfranc sprain after being sacked in a game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, which sidelined him for eight weeks. Rourke made his return to play just before the playoffs, leading the Lions to the Western Division Final. 

Although the Lions didn’t make it to the Grey Cup, the CFL’s version of the Super Bowl, it was still a record season for Rourke. He set a new record for the best season completion percentage in all of pro football with 78.7% and finished with a passer rating of 123.6, the second-best in CFL history. 

Those statistics, his leadership and perseverance earned Rourke the Most Outstanding Canadian Award, given to the league’s most valuable player. Rourke is only the third quarterback in CFL history to win it, and the first since 1980. 

On Nov. 15, ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that Rourke was set to work out with NFL teams. It wouldn’t be Rourke’s first attempt at trying out for the NFL, but after his 2022 season, he may have better luck. 

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Quarter Back Nathan Rourke throwing the ball during the Ohio University vs Lousianna-Layfette Game on Saturday, September 21, 2019.

A.J. Ouellette 

Running back A.J. Ouellette had a couple brief stints in the NFL during the 2019 preseason, signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in May and the Cleveland Browns in July. On Sept. 17, 2019, Ouellette made his transition to the CFL, signing with the Argonauts. In his first season, Ouellette only played in three games, rushing 23 times for 114 yards. 

Like Rourke, Ouellette’s best season came in 2022. He was the Argonauts leading rusher, with 516 yards on 98 carries. The Ohio native was the seventh leading rusher in the league, and was a big part of the Argonauts championship year. 

In the Grey Cup, Ouellette scored Toronto’s only two touchdowns. He finished the game with only six carries for 24 yards, but each yard mattered, as Toronto only won the Grey Cup by one point. 

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Ohio's A.J. Ouellette pushes through Kent State's defensive line during the Bobcats game against the Golden Flashes on Oct. 21, 2017. (FILE)

Casey Sayles 

Another Bobcat who played in the Grey Cup is Casey Sayles. The defensive tackle has played two seasons with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, totaling 64 tackles and 11 sacks in 32 games. He has performed pretty evenly in both seasons. In 2022, he had 36 tackles and six sacks. The Grey Cup was arguably Sayles’ best game this season, as six of his tackles and one of his sacks came in that game. 

Sayles came to the CFL after spending time in the NFL, AAF and XFL, but he seems like he’s fitting well in Winnipeg. 

Football File

Number four of Akron, wide receiver Fransohn Bickley, is tackled by three of Ohio University’s players including Casey Sayles last season.

Papi White 

Receiver Papi White’s second season with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats started strong, but was cut short after he suffered a season-ending injury on Sept. 23. Before then, White had 31 receptions for 309 yards. White also spent some time on special teams, returning 12 punts for 103 yards. 

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Ohio’s Papi White celebrates a touchdown against Bowling Green on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (FILE)

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