DJ Eberle is a student/athlete at Western New England University. He is an offensive tackle, built like his dad; a rugby Prop. Track him on Twitter @Ebstide52
BOSTON, MA – The New England Patriots took a play from their AFC East rival New York Jets, drafting rugby star Nate Ebner out of Ohio State. Ebner a senior safety for the Buckeyes this past fall, was taken with the 197th selection of the sixth round. The Patriots are going on the similar route to the Jets after the Jets added Team USA’s rugby star Hayden Smith – an Australian – to their roster during free agency.
Unlike Smith, Ebner does have football experience and was considered Ohio State’s top special teams player this past season. Ebner was a 2009 walk-on safety with the Buckeyes and recorded 11 tackles and one sack this past season.
“I’m not getting overly excited about the draft,” Ebner told the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this week prior to this weekend’s NFL Draft. “I just want a chance with a team. At the end of the day, you have to show up when it comes time to play.
Prior to starting his career at OSU, Ebner was a stud rugby player for the United States at the national level. In 2007 and 2008 Ebner was the Rugby World Cup MVP as a representative for the United States U19 and U20 teams respectively. Even though it seemed that Ebner had a more promising career in rugby, he decided to pursue a football career and entered the NFL Draft.
“Going the football route for now. Would love to keep in touch with the rugby team and will definitely contemplate making the switch,” Ebner said, “but for now it’s all football until they tell me to leave! Or also if these new leagues start to pick up for sevens or I get some good offers to play 15s that I can’t turn down.”
Ebner is noted as a complete work horse in the weight room by his college coaches. Ebner did not receive much time on the field as a safety but was a major contributor as a special teams player. I’ll say this, Nate Ebner will not be a starter on the Patriots defense this season and may not even make it past the practice squad for the Pats, but he will make an impact.
The Patriots were very attracted to Nate Ebner. They met with him prior to his pro-day and have a Patriot tie on the Buckeyes staff. Ebner had the chance to work with former New England Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel this past season, who was a defensive assistant on the Buckeye staff this past season.
If Ebner’s NFL career doesn’t work out I can almost guarantee that he will be welcomed with open arms by the USA 7s coaching staff. But for now it is all football for Ebner.
“It’s football all the way, and if that doesn’t work out, I’m definitely playing rugby somewhere if I’m not playing football,” said Ebner. “But I’m going to be hitting people with my body as long as it can take it. And rugby’s too fun to not play if I’m not playing football.“