Rourke’s leadership extends beyond Friday nights 

Experienced HP senior hosts team dinners, aims to set positive examples

As the most experienced player on the Highland Park defense, and the only team captain on that side of scrimmage, Adam Rourke knew he had to become a better leader.

That extends beyond the field. Rourke’s house in University Park has become the weekly site for traditional Thursday team dinners for about 20 of his defensive teammates. And this year, the group has added film study while building a rapport.

“A lot of us already have a tight bond because we’ve played together for quite a few years,” Rourke said. “It just builds a better camaraderie.”

On Friday nights, the senior cornerback has complemented his pass coverage skills with more physicality. Halfway through the season, he was leading the Scots in tackles — rare for a cornerback — after securing 15 stops during a win over Lewisville.

“I take pride in that, being physical up near the line,” Rourke said. “In my sophomore year, I was just focused on covering.”

Rourke is the only defensive holdover from the 2020 team that reached the fourth round of the Class 5A Division I playoffs. He was promoted from the junior varsity squad early that season and became a full-time starter as a junior.

He said experience has made him more patient and improved his ability to read the field, enabling him to match up against the top receiver on the opposing team.

“You embrace the respect that other teams are giving you, and you’re happy you’ve earned it,” Rourke said. “It’s kind of a reward for your hard work.”

Rourke is a two-sport athlete at HP. He enjoyed baseball more growing up and didn’t start playing football until seventh grade when coaches convinced him to join the “C” team. He missed the following year with an injury but climbed the depth chart quickly as a freshman.

During that time, Rourke and his now-senior teammates marveled at HP’s run of three consecutive state championships, particularly the stingy defense that paved the way during the 2016 campaign by allowing fewer than 14 points per game.

“It’s always been a goal of ours since middle school. We watched the state championship teams growing up,” he said. “We’ve always wanted to be one of those defenses. We reference that in practice almost every day. The example they set for us is the example we want to set for future generations.”

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