Quick study: St. Patrick’s Jack O’Rourke excelling in first season at QB

St. Patrick's Jack O'Rourke (11) throws a screen pass against Notre Dame. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.
St. Patrick's Jack O'Rourke (11) throws a screen pass against Notre Dame. Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times.

At the end of last season the coaching staff at St. Patrick asked one of the team leaders to do something that he had never even tried before.

The coaches asked defensive back Jack O’Rourke to be the team’s starting quarterback. There was a hole at the position after the expected starter quit to pursue baseball.

“I told the coaches I was ready to step up,” O’Rourke said. “My teammates have helped me along the way. I was nervous. Especially after taking that first snap. It’s unbelievable. I love it so far. I’ve done my best. We’ve played some tough teams. It’s all coming together now.”

O’Rourke, who was an all-conference free safety, started working out at quarterback as soon as he could. After his first pass, he realized that he had a lot of work to do.

“It was supposed to be a slant but it went over the receiver’s head,” O’Rourke said. “I’ve worked on it a lot.”

Seven games into the season, O’Rourke has turned into a difference maker on both sides of the ball. Not only does he have 1,300 total yards and 11 touchdowns, he continues to excel at safety, where he has 22 tackles and two interceptions.

“I like being in control and having the ball in my hands,” O’Rourke said. “I like being a playmaker. I think that’s my best asset. Being on defense first has helped a lot. Safeties are usually the quarterback of the defense, so I got to see the differences in coverage. On defense, I knew our weaknesses and we had to cover them up. Now on offense, I look for weaknesses of the defense to expose.”

St. Patrick coach Adam Guerra knew that he asked a lot of O’Rourke.

“After the season we sat down as a staff and asked who on our team would make the best choice to play quarterback,” Guerra said. “We run an offense that is more mentally complicated than physically complicated. We wanted the smartest, most savvy football player. And Jack is that guy. He jumped into it and has gotten better every week.”

O’Rourke, who is also on the water polo and swimming teams, says that playing those sports helped him learn to play quarterback.

“Especially water polo,” O’Rourke said. “Even though it’s not the same as football it’s the same team aspect where you distribute the ball to everyone.”

O’Rourke is the fourth member of his family to attend St.Patrick. His father Michael is a 1986 graduate and his two older brothers attended the school.

His goal isn’t to impress colleges at this point. He says he wanted to focus on this week’s opponent instead.

“It’s unbelievable what I’ve done,” O’Rourke said. “Now, we want to win out, so we can make the playoffs and possibly win a state [championship].”

St. Patrick (4-3, 2-3 East Suburban Catholic) plays at St. Viator on Friday.

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