Nate Ebner, a three-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, will return from the NFL to compete for a place on the seven-time Olympic rugby team from the United States.
On Monday, USA Rugby announced that the New York Giants safety player and special equipment he was joining a group of about 30 men looking for one of 12 venues in Tokyo later this year. Ebner, who played rugby as a boy in Dublin, Ohio, at Ohio State and for US youth teams, sought and won a spot at the Rio Olympics in 2016, when rugby returned to the fold after more than 90 years.
“We are very excited to welcome Nate back to the group,” said USA coach Mike Friday. “Nate is an authentic and good man who carries himself with humility, has a burning desire to achieve and a passion for integrating rugby and its values into the American sporting landscape. He is a Dawg, a pioneer and he will be up to the challenge. “
Under Friday, an Englishman who often refers to his hardworking players as “dawgs” (“Pioneers” is a reference to a 2018 documentary), US men finished second in 2019. HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, qualifying for Tokyo only behind Fiji, winners of the Olympic gold in Rio. The Eagles finished that tournament in a disappointing eighth place.
“Not getting a medal in the last Olympics is something that really bothers me,” Ebner said. “When I reflect on what is important in my life, if I’m honest, that was a high priority. People say, ‘You were the guy who won a gold medal at the Olympics,’ and I said, ‘No, we didn’t win a medal.’
“… I thought we had the team to do it, and when I look at the growth in the last five years, we definitely have an even better chance this time. It’s something I’d really like to be a part of. “
Announced as “the most interesting player in the NFL … a Jewish Olympic rugby player who never played football in high school, was a college player and rarely plays safety,” Ebner joined the Giants last March after eight years in New England. New York head coach Joe Judge was a special teams coordinator with the Patriots when Ebner first returned to rugby.
“We know that rugby has been an important part of Nate’s life since he was young,” Judge said Monday, “and encouraged him to take advantage of this opportunity. Nate’s rugby training will keep him in great shape this offseason, and we’ll keep in touch with him as he goes through the process. ”
Ebner is now 32 years old, relatively older for an international sevens player, though Perry Baker, who was once a wide receiver now two times player of the year in the world seven, is 34 years old.
“I’ve been playing NFL football for [nine] years and that’s not easy on your body, ”Ebner said. “Over 30 in the NFL is an older person. In rugby, there are some older guys, but it’s not really that I’m 32 in rugby, it’s the journey I’ve had.
“There are guys who are 24 years old and have had all kinds of injuries. Each person’s personal situation is different with their body, their age and the wear and tear they have had to endure, so I hope I can endure. “
The coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the seven, finish 2020 calendar ahead of time, but American men and women played in Madrid last month. The Olympics were also delayed, but rugby is now scheduled for July 26-28, around the start of NFL training.
“The physical and cardiovascular demands of this game are through the roof relative to soccer and it’s not even close,” Ebner said. “We can’t stop every six seconds after the play ends. It is simply absurd. [In 2016]Physically, what really took me six to eight weeks to get to where I needed to be was extremely difficult. At least this time I know what to expect physically because I’ve been through it.
“Obviously, you have to assess where you are, but you would expect that within a week of the competition I will be back and I’m in shoulder pads and a helmet and I’m trying to get ready to win something. football games.”
It will all add up to a remarkable personal story that Ebner will tell in an autobiography to be published in May, under the subtitle A Father’s Code and the Way of a Son. Jeff Ebner was murdered 13 years ago. Since then, Ebner has worn a bracelet with his father’s motto, now the title of his own book: Finish Strong.
Speaking to The Guardian in 2016, when he first intended to return to rugby, he said: “I think Dad would be proud of me and I’m proud that he’s my Dad.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism