By DJ Eberle, 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
The New England Patriots had some heads scratching a few weekends ago when they traded up to draft former Ohio State walk-on saftey Nate Ebner in the sixth round, which I first wrote about here on RWU on Draft Weekend. Aside from people like you and I, most people were quite puzzled. Why draft Ebner, a saftey who only saw three plays on defense this season? Ohio State defensive line coach Mike Vrabel knows why.
“He’s got the ability to run at a high rate of speed and move and bend without slowing down,” said Vrabel. “He can run through traffic without losing speed. Guys that cover kicks and maintain their speed in traffic are what you’re looking for.”
Oh yeah, and Mike Vrabel just happens to be a New England Patriot legend.
Not only was Ebner on the Ohio State football team, but he was on the rugby team for the Buckeyes as well. Ebner is know for his work horse and tenacious playing style, which one can guess he picked up from his playing days in rugby. Ebner did not play football in high school at Hilliard Davidson High in Dublin, Ohio, but he did play rugby; and was a world class-act.
Ebner participated on both the United States U19 and U20 national teams and was the MVP of the Rugby World Cup in both 2007 and ’08. Ebner is also the youngest player to play on the National 7s team for the United States at the age of 17.
Ebner was not on many team’s draft boards come draft day, but he did catch Head Coach Bill Belichick’s eye. The talk around the water cooler is that Ebner has a very good chance on making the Patriots’ special teams unit and a spot on the 53-man roster.
“I think if they’re looking to develop a talented player into something that they think can play a bunch of different spots, then I think it’s the right fit. I hope it’s the right fit,” Vrabel said of Ebner landing in his own former NFL home. “Certainly the way they develop people, the coaching staff’s ability and understanding how to develop a talented player that maybe doesn’t know all the techniques, doesn’t have all the experience, they’ve proven it’s a good place to start in New England.”
There can be comparisons made between New England’s Nate Ebner and new New York Jet signee Hayden Smith. Both players are coming from predominantly heavy rugby backgrounds, which is very interesting. If anything you would see a football player who didn’t find his niche in this sport, and move on to rugby. It is so rare for it to be the other way around, and for it to happen twice in less than a month. The reason these players fit in is because rugby is such an intense game, they have the physical durability to make the transition.
Ebner had this to say after he was drafted on his Twitter account, “Ayyyyeee! Up early dont kno what to really say.. Amazing, excited, grateful, dream come true. I got love for everyone! Thxs for the support!” If you would like to follow Nate Ebner on Twitter, his username is @natebner34.
I think that Nate Ebner has the better shot at landing himself on the New England Patriots 53-man roster. But that also doesn’t mean Hayden Smith won’t make it, because I think he has a pretty good shot too. Either way us here at RWU wish them the best and will be rooting for them!