BC High graduate and former NFL player Jim Rourke was presented with an NFL game ball in recognition of Super Bowl 50. Rourke played for the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. The following story appeared in the Globe just prior to that Super Bowl.
MIAMI - A month ago, he was collecting rents in Dorchester and banging nails on the South Shore. Maybe heading down to Woonsocket, R.I., to check out a bar that he and his partners recently had purchased. In his words, the rope had slipped out of his hands, “I was finally letting go of the rope.”
Now Jim Rourke is here, as much a part of the Super Bowl as corporate excess, as much a part of the Bengals as Boomer Esiason. Oh, there has been a problem or two, the name on his uniform that he will wear Sunday first spelled “Roarke,” then “Roark,” but perhaps the letters will all be in line Sunday and it will come out as “R-O-U-R-K-E.”
Jim Rourke still may not be sure how much of a share of the Super Bowl loot he will receive (”There’s still some question . . . I don’t know, I may get a quarter share”) or even if he will receive a Super Bowl ring. Which led him to give this best line of the week: “Maybe they’ll give me a quarter of the ring, too. Other guys go around showing off their Super Bowl rings. If they give me a quarter of a Super Bowl ring, I’ll be the first guy to go around showing off his Super Bowl earring.”
Boston College High School and then Boston College led to this twist in the Super Bowl road. Rourke played for Jim McNally at BC 11 years ago when McNally was an assistant coach under Joe Yukica, “and when we had some injury problems on the line,” said McNally, now the offensive line coach of the Bengals, “I immediately thought of Jim. He had been with the Chiefs a long time and he had played against the Seahawks a lot and we were playing Seattle in the playoffs. I was looking for a guy who knew how to play Seattle defensive end Jacob Green and I thought of Jim right away.”
Except Rourke was far from thinking about football at the time. He had been in the league for eight years, but was cut by Kansas City in 1987 and wasn’t even invited to camp in 1988. “The worst days,” he said, “were Mondays and Tuesdays. That’s when I missed football the most -- Mondays because there’d be no practice and Tuesdays because that was when you got your game checks.”
On Thanksgiving Day, he went to the BC High-Catholic Memorial game at Boston College, went to his aunt’s home in Wellesley for Thanksgiving dinner and watched only a bit of the NFL games on TV. “I didn’t have too much interest in watching the games,” said Rourke. “I could watch only bits and pieces of them. Here it was Thanksgiving and no team had called, and if you’re not called by Thanksgiving, that’s usually it. I thought that was it for me. I thought I might have to get a real job.”
Real life now was in front of him. With a friend, he helped put up houses in Hanson, banging nails maybe twice a week, “though I never put the hammer to my thumb.” On other days, he helped manage property, picking up rent checks the first of the month in Dorchester, Whitman and Brockton and doing other odd jobs.
“I had to make a lot of phone calls and ask them where the rents were,” said Rourke. “I used to hear a lot of good stories.”
But on Dec. 18, McNally called and said the Bengals may be looking for an offensive lineman. “He called at 11 in the morning,” said Rourke, “then called back a few hours later, and at 4 in the afternoon, I was on the plane to Cincinnati.”
He has played only on the extra point teams so far, but during the Seattle game, he saw his old teammate from BC High and BC, Joe Nash, go down a few times, then a few more times, with a knee “injury.” Nash and Rourke had been close for years, ever since he was at BC High “and I had to convince him that the University of Maine was not the school for him and that he could play at Boston College. So I had to go up to him after the game . . . well, Joe may be the first player in the NFL to have a rule named after him, ‘the Nash rule.’ “
Now Rourke was here. Few people know about it, even back in Boston, “and it’s funny,” he said. “Danny Conway gave me a call down here. Danny played at BC, too, and he has a gym down here in Fort Lauderdale and he called me and said, ‘You know, I’ve always tried to follow you, but you were always out in the Midwest and then I lost track of you.’ Then Danny was watching the local sports down here and he saw me stepping off the plane with the Bengals. To put it mildly, he was surprised.”
The money has been good so far -- $10,000 for the Seattle game, money again for the AFC Championship game (apparently a quarter share) and now the Super Bowl. “Who knows?” said Rourke. “I may have stepped into a tub instead of a bucket.”
Not to mention the Super Bowl earring.