NFL Jewish star Nate Ebner of the New England Patriots has been named in the US rugby sevens team for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Joining Ebner on the squad is another Jewish player — Zack Test, 26, of Northern California.
On the Patriots, Ebner is teammates with Julian Edelman, whose father is Jewish. Edelamn who named No. 4 Jewish Football Player Ever, has been getting in touch with his Jewish side over the past several years.
The 27-year-old Nate Ebner is becoming the only NFL player to make a U.S. Olympic team. Nat will return to the Patriots after Rio, was given leave to pursue his sevens ambition earlier this year. New England Patriots team defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28–24 at Super Bowl 2015.
Ebner, from Ohio, began his career aged just 17, the youngest player ever to make the U.S. men’s sevens team in rugby union.
He become an All-America rugby player at Ohio State University before joining the school’s football team and being drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft.
He becomes the fourth NFL player to play for the US sevens side in recent years, alongside Leonard Peters, Bennie Brazell and Carlin Isles
Ebner’s father, Jeff, was the Sunday school principal of Temple Sholom in Springfield, Ohio. In 2008, he was killed at 53 by a man who beat him while attempting to rob his auto reclamation shop.
Following in his father’s athletic footsteps, Ebner also took his father’s religious proclivities and moral compass to heart. “He taught me the importance of being Jewish, ” Ebner says of his father to Jewish Journal boston forward. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner.”
“My father chose to play rugby in college after having a good high school career, ” Ebner explained, “but he had an injury his senior year which had a negative effect on colleges looking to recruit him. He ended up playing at Minnesota and Drake, and continued to play the rest of his life.”
About his grandparents he said: “They make sure I keep up with Jewish events and that I remember my origins.”
Rugby has not been played in the Olympics sincet he U.S. team won the gold medal in 1924. That team included Samuel Goodman, a Jewish player who also managed the club. Goodman also played and managed the U.S. team that won the Olympics gold four years earlier.
The US team will face Fiji, Argentina and hosts Brazil in Pool A, with the top two sides guaranteed a spot in the quarter-finals.