TROY — The nine-month odyssey reached a crescendo with Nathan Rourke roaming around the south end zone of Veterans Memorial Stadium looking for another Edgewood teammate to hug.
Nearby, Larry and Robyn Rourke watched and smiled.
Edgewood may have secured a sixth straight AISA championship with Friday’s 40-34 win over Marengo Academy, but it was Rourke’s first.
And the journey took him and his family, with their accents and all, about 1,000 miles from their Canadian home to the new Alabama home.
“We came here for him to have an opportunity to play in a game like this,” Larry Rourke said. “We are proud of him, but we were proud of him before the game, too.
“He’s done so much this year.”
The Rourkes are a self-described “football family” that — despite those Canadian roots — isn’t into hockey.
Nathan, though one of the top quarterbacks in the Great White North, wasn’t being recruited by any major college. His family’s move to Alabama was so he might draw college interest.
That has changed.
Nathan said UCLA, New Mexico State, Missouri and Kent State have shown interest.
So has Yale, though the Ivy League teams don’t give athletic scholarships. Rourke needs to up his ACT score four points to a 28, he said.
“My family is just as much into this as I am,” Nathan Rourke said. “They’ve given me 100 percent of their support. They’ve been behind me every step of the way.”
It wasn’t long ago that the Rourkes were in Oakville, Ontario, near Toronto, and pondering their future.
In February, they started considering their options, Larry and Robyn said.
They settled on Edgewood and coach Bobby Carr. Nathan became a record-setting quarterback who helped the Wildcats continue their winning habit.
Edgewood, with Friday’s victory, has won 71 straight games and six straight AISA championships.
“This is month nine,” Nathan Rourke said. “Coach Carr brought me here to get exposure and to keep it going.”
He quickly fit in with the Wildcats, who have serenaded him with “O, Canada” a few times and even razzed him with a “U-S-A” chant.
“Maybe we need to learn the Canadian national anthem,” Edgewood coach Bobby Carr said. “Everybody sees what he does on the field, but there’s also the type of kid he is. His character is impeccable.
“Whoever gets him is getting a great player and an even better person.”
Rourke shined Friday for the Wildcats. He was 19-of-27 passing for 337 yards and three touchdowns. He ran 13 times for a team-high 53 yards and another score.
“Nathan is like a wizard on the field,” junior receiver Maurice Young said. “He’s breaking tackles and throwing the ball on the money.
His final numbers are staggering, too.
Rourke completed more than 75 percent of his passes for 3,789 yards and an AISA-record 59 touchdowns against three interceptions. He also ran for seven TDs.
He played in the second half just twice.
“But 71 (straight wins) is better,” Rourke said.
To compare, he matched the AHSAA record for touchdown passes set by American Christian’s Chris Smelley in 2005. His 66 total touchdowns was one shy of Pike County’s Chris Nickson in 2003.
“Especially when you’re playing only half of a game,” Robyn Rourke said.
Nathan’s next step: He’s playing basketball for Edgewood, plus he’ll jump even more into recruiting.
“I’ll take it easy for a day or two, but basketball starts next week,” Rourke said. “I know Coach Carr is going to help me (with recruiting), too.
“I’m completely confident that I’ll go somewhere.”