Ebner in the 2013 NFL postseason
|No. 43 New England Patriots|
|Date of birth:||December 14, 1988|
|Place of birth:||Dublin, Ohio|
|Height:||6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)|
|Weight:||210 lb (95 kg)|
|NFL draft:||2012 / Round: 6 / Pick: 197|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics as of Week 17, 2015|
When Ebner was 17 years old, he became the youngest player ever to play on the United States national rugby sevens team. Ebner then played fifteen-a-side rugby on the United States Under-19 and Under-20 national teams, and was named MVP for the teams at both the 2007 and 2008 IRB Junior World Championships.
Despite not having played high school football, in his junior year of college he then walked on to and played college football for the Ohio State Buckeyes. In 36 career college games, he had 30 tackles as a special teams player from 2009–11.
Ebner was born in Dublin, Ohio. Ebner was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, until sixth grade, and then in Columbus, Ohio. Ebner attended Hilliard Davidson High School, but did not play football there.
Junior rugby career
Ebner was a standout rugby union player on the U.S. age-group national teams. At age 17, Ebner was the youngest player ever to play on the United States national rugby sevens team. He was named MVP of the USA team at both the under-19 IRB Junior World Championship in 2007, and the under-20 IRB Junior World Championship in 2008.
College football career
Ebner attended Ohio State University, where he majored in Exercise Science. Ebner did not play football his first two years of college, as he was competing internationally in rugby, but then in his junior year he walked-on the Buckeyes. Although it was his first time playing football, by year's end he was nevertheless considered the team's best special teams player. He played only a handful of plays from scrimmage at nickelback as a back up, but did record a sack. He ran the 40-yard-dash in 4.48.
He was given a football scholarship his senior year, based on his special teams skills. In 2011, during which he had 11 tackles, he was voted the team’s most inspirational player, receiving the Bo Rein Award, and the team's best special teams player, earning the Ike Kelley Award. He was a three-time Big Ten Conference All-Academic honoree.
He was nicknamed "Leonidas," after a Greek warrior-king hero of Sparta acted by Gerard Butler in the movie 300, because of his intense workout regimen, and his beard. Paul Haynes, the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach, said: "He has a passion for being great .... He was probably the most valuable player on that whole team last year." Asked which special teams unit he enjoyed playing on the most at Ohio State, Ebner's said: "Kickoff, probably. Because ... I just enjoy running down as fast as you can. It's just mayhem, it's exciting, it's crazy. It's such a rush.... It's just one big blur, and then it's over.... Maybe I got a screw loose."
In his 36 career games he had 30 tackles from 2009–11. Pro Football Weekly described him as a player who "races down the field like a bat out of hell, and hunts returners like a heat-seeking missile".
On Ohio State's Pro Day, he had an unofficial 4.47 40-yard dash time, and 39.5-inch vertical jump. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times, ran the 60-yard shuttle in 10.90 seconds, recorded a broad jump of 10 feet 8 inches, and had a short-shuttle time of 3.91 seconds and a 3-cone drill time of 6.59 seconds.
New England Patriots
Ebner was drafted by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, 197th overall. He signed a four-year contract with a $96,600 signing bonus. He had considered playing rugby but he was not offered a contract with a professional team. During his rookie season, Ebner played in all but 1 game, playing in 15 regular season games and both playoff games, and finished second on the team both in special teams tackles (17) and special teams snaps (297, or 61% of snaps). He also played 36 snaps at safety. In two playoff games, he had one tackle. Ebner continued to play primarily on special teams for New England in 2013, playing only sparingly on defense. He played in 15 regular season games, in which he had 9 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 playoff games. In the Patriots' Week 12 victory over the Denver Broncos, Ebner recovered a muffed punt that hit Broncos cornerback Tony Carter to set up Stephen Gostkowski's game-winning field goal. The recovery capped a franchise-record 24-point comeback.
Ebner won his first Super Bowl with the Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX. He played 48 percent of special teams snaps, making 11 tackles (second on the team), while missing four games with a broken thumb during the 2014 season. Coach Bill Belichick said:
His development has really been outstanding. I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top-five percent all time of players that I’ve coached, from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL. [He] has adapted in a relatively short amount of time to the knowledge of our defense, to the understanding of opponents’ offenses, to instinctiveness and reading and recognition at a position that he plays right in the middle of the field, which is among the most difficult – inside linebacker and safety – where the number of things that can happen is the greatest.
On March 12, 2016, Ebner agreed to terms with the Patriots on a new 2-year deal.
Three days after Ebner's contract was signed, the Patriots granted Ebner a leave of absence to try out for the United States national rugby sevens team for the 2016 Summer Olympics, with no guarantee he would make the team. His transfer to rugby sevens follows in the footsteps of Sonny Bill Williams, Bryan Habana, and Quade Cooper, who are rugby union stars also attempting to qualify for the Olympics.
USA sevens head coach Mike Friday recalled in an April 2016 interview that when Ebner first approached him about trying out for the Olympic team, Friday placed Ebner's chances of making the team at "10 or 20 percent." However, after strong showings in the Hong Kong and Singapore events on the World Rugby Sevens circuit, Friday said, "He has a 50:50 chance now but if he stays on this trajectory then it's only going one way and that's up." Friday added that Ebner played a critical role in improving the team's on-field communication. According to the coach, one of Ebner's first questions upon arriving at the USA training camp was whether the team had a "comms book". Friday was unfamiliar with the term, and Ebner pointed out that the Patriots provide all players with a manual of common on-field language, with all terms tightly defined. While the sevens team had operated with a set of common words, Friday and the rest of the coaching staff analyzed the team's communications and found that many players had different definitions for the same term. In the interview, Friday indicated, "That's exactly what I wanted from Nate. From being a newbie in the environment, he'd recognised an area we could improve."
Ebner's attempt to make the Olympics proved successful and in July 2016 he was named in the US rugby sevens team for the Rio games.
Ebner is Jewish. He said of his father: "He taught me the importance of being Jewish with holidays like Chanukah and Passover, and I spent some time at Sunday Hebrew school. My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner." He said his grandparents continue to be a big influence in his life, and "make sure I keep up with Jewish events and that I remember my origins."
His father, Jeff Ebner, was a former college rugby player at the University of Minnesota and Sunday School principal at Temple Shalom in Springfield, Ohio, He was beaten to death at age 53 during an attempted robbery in November 2008 at the family business, Ebner & Sons auto reclamation in Springfield. In July 2010, his father's killer was sentenced to life in prison for murder, with the possibility of parole after 15 years. Ebner said:
My [late] dad was my only role model. Looking back on it, you had your favorite players, but they were just players. But a role model, and the way you carry yourself and how you go about your work – what hard work really means – and to be a man ... every aspect of life. To me, my dad was that role model, 100 percent. There wasn't anyone else I wanted to be like more than him.
- List of players who have converted from one football code to another
- List of select Jewish football players
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