Wednesday, March 16, 2016

NFL player takes leave to chase dream of playing 7s in the Rio Olympics

New England Patriots safety and former US U20s rugby player Nate Ebner has been given leave from the NFL franchise to attempt to make the USA Sevens side for the Rio Olympics.

Speaking on the Patriots website, Ebner said:
“From my background obviously, rugby’s always been a part of my life since even I was 6 years old,” Ebner said during a conference call on Tuesday. “I probably picked up a ball and started playing and watching my dad play so it’s always been a part of my life. I grew up with rugby like [how] most kids probably grew up with football, or basketball or baseball. For me, it’s always been around.

“I’ve been in contact with USA Rugby like I said for a while. I’ve known some of these coaches since I was 15, 16 years old. I’ve always been in touch. I had my conversations with people as I would go to the Las Vegas Sevens Tournaments and watch the World Series circuit there and talk to [people] as I watched other games everywhere else. I’ve always wanted to play.

“Obviously, I’m playing with the Patriots but just through expressing that and seeing the opportunity that they have available to me, we just talked it out and now I’m here. I don’t know the specifics in that but I think it worked itself out.”

“I am absolutely not guaranteed a spot,” he said. “I have to try out for the team like anybody else and I have to earn a spot like anybody. I’m just lucky to even have the opportunity to even try.”
“Growing up playing rugby, you don’t have the opportunity to play in the Olympics,” Ebner added.
“The best thing you could get to really was the World Cup because rugby wasn’t in the Olympics. So, to see now that it is back in the Olympics in the form of Sevens in Rio in 2016 and to be a part of something I watched growing up and that has as much tradition as the Olympics and the time and effort put in to perfect your craft for something that comes around once in a lifetime for some people. The idea to potentially be a part of something like that is humbling and it would be amazing.”