Nate Ebner’s Journey to the Olympic Games

Philip Tor | Pats Militia

Nate Ebner and his Dad, Jeff were more than just Father and Son, they were best friends. They had a relationship that no one could manipulate, one that no one could damage. At the center of their friendship was the game of rugby, a game that was played by Jeff all of his life.

Nate was born in Dublin, Ohio to parents Nancy and Jeffery, who separated while Nate was still young. He spent most of his time with his Mother in Columbus, where he went to school, then on the weekends and in the summer spent time with his Father who owned his own junkyard “Ebner’s Auto Parts” in a nearby town of Springfield, Ohio. This is where their relationship blossomed into a friendship.

Nate played football until he went to high school. It was then that he became serious about the game of rugby, and was invited to join the United States U-19 National Rugby Sevens Team at the age of 17. He competed the the U-19 Junior World Cup and other tournaments as a member of the squad. When it became time to pick a college, he decided to attend The Ohio State University where he would be a member of the Buckeye Rugby Sevens Team.

Bowl Final, Scotland 14 v 10 USA at Singapore Sevens 2016, HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series - Photo Martin Seras Lima

As his National Rugby career came to a close before his junior season at Ohio State, Nate decided he would follow his dream of playing football at the professional level, and the first step was to walk onto the Ohio State Football team. Ebner thought that the transition from rugby would not be supported by his Father, but after talking with him, Jeff Ebner was on board and believed his son would one day play in the NFL. Before he had the chance to try out, tragedy struck the Ebner family.

On November 13th 2008, Jeffery Ebner was murdered in his junkyard during an attempted robbery. Ebner was only 53 years old at the time of his death.

Despite the close relationship that Nate and his Father shared, he did not let the tragic death affect him and his goals. Instead he used the incident as motivation, and ended up making the Ohio State Football team as a walk-on his junior year, just as Nate and his father had discussed.

Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Nate Ebner (34) carries the U.S. flag as he leads the Buckeyes on the field before the start of an NCAA College football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and University of Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium, September 10, 2011. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Fred Squillante)
Ohio State Buckeyes defensive back Nate Ebner (34) carries the U.S. flag as he leads the Buckeyes on the field before the start of an NCAA College football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and University of Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium, September 10, 2011. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Fred Squillante)

Nate made an immediate impact on the field as a special teamer for the Buckeyes. He was considered the team’s best special teams player and earned a scholarship before his senior season. His senior year he was named the teams most inspirational player along with earning Big Ten all-academic honors. He was also given the nickname Leonidas based on his beard and intense workouts and fierceness in games and practices.

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After graduating from Ohio State, he entered the 2012 NFL Draft. In the 6th Round, Bill Belichick called the 23 year old Ebner and told him they would be selecting him with the 197th selection in the draft. This selection was two picks before the famous 199th pick, where the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft.

Nate_Ebner

Ebner once again showed his worth in the special teams game. Playing alongside All-Pro Special Teamer Matthew Slater, the Patriots special teams unit was consistently one of the best in the league. Ebner played in all but 1 game as a rookie, and in his 4 seasons with the Patriots, Ebner has been a frequent name atop the list in special teams tackles. Many refer to Nate Ebner as the quintessential Patriot, because of his work ethic and dedication to his teammates and his sport.

Jan 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks to defensive back Nate Ebner (43) during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-245804 ORIG FILE ID: 20160116_pjc_sj7_187.JPG
Jan 16, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick talks to defensive back Nate Ebner (43) during the fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-245804 ORIG FILE ID: 20160116_pjc_sj7_187.JPG

Ebner helped the Patriots advance to Super Bowl 49 and defeat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 thanks to the game clinching interception by Malcolm Butler.

When it was announced that Rugby would return as an Olympic Sport in the 2016 Olympic Games, Ebner wished to try out for the team, but was worried it would conflict with his football career. In March, The New England Patriots offered Ebner a 2 year contract and granted him a leave of absence to pursue his dream of playing in the Olympic Games. Although at first his chances of making the US Rugby Sevens team did not look good, he proved himself valuable to the team in scrimmages and practices in the following months. In July, Nate Ebner received an invitation to represent his country in the Olympic Games as a member of the U.S rugby squad.

Many of Ebner’s Patriots teammates took to social media to congratulate their teammate. On the day of the team’s first game Belichick gave the team time off from practice to watch Ebner play, while also sporting a Nate Ebner USA shirt during practice.

 

In the games Ebner appeared in all three matches the US played. He scored a try in matches vs Brazil in a 26-0 blowout of the host country, and a 24-19 loss to #1 ranked Fiji. The score came late in the game as the U.S was trying to rally from a 24-14 deficit. The loss put the United States two points back of Argentina and was unable to advance to the medal round.

Ebner will now travel back to the United States and re-join his New England Patriots teammates as they prepare for the 2016 NFL season which kicks off Sunday September 11th, against the Arizona Cardinals.

Great Feature Story by Bleacher Report –

 

 

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