FOXBORO, MA – For most teams in the NFL, training camps will be starting up this week. Which means the outcomes for both Rugby Stars in NFL training camps – Nate Ebner and Hayden Smith – will be known after training camp finishes in August. Both Ebner and Smith are former rugby stars who wanted to give football a try at the highest level in the States. Ebner was a 2012 draft pick by the New England Patriots while Smith was a free agent signing by the New York Jets. Oddly enough, both teams play in the AFC East. Here’s what I see as their fate:
Nate Ebner: To the average football fan’s eye, Ebner was a risky late round draft pick by the Patriots. But at second glance, it was a smart move. Ebner was a special teams legend at Ohio State University. He was known to be a work horse on the field during practices. Ebner’s official position on the Buckeyes’ roster was defensive back, but saw limited time on defense during his career. Ebner was drafted for one reason; to play special teams. And he will thrive. That is why I believe Nate Ebner will make the New England Patriots 53-man roster and succeed on special teams.
Hayden Smith: Smith’s case is a different story. Unlike Nate Ebner, he doesn’t have any true football experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t succeed. It will just be a little more difficult. Smith was signed as a tight end by the Jets. Tight end is arguably the hardest position on the offensive side of the ball next to quarterback. As a tight end, you will have to block great pass rushers like Mario Williams and Julius Peppers. You’ll also have to be able to catch, which isn’t as easy as it sounds – especially when you have to cross the middle of the field with a linebacker like Ray Lewis lining you up. It be tough for Smith to make the team. If he wants to start – and you can be he does – he will have to beat out veteran leader Dustin Keller. That’s an even bigger hurdle. Smith has a long and tough road ahead of him but I think in time he will succeed. For now I just see Hayden Smith as a player on the New York Jets practice squad. But hey, maybe I’m wrong.