Patriots’ Nate Ebner Selected To U.S. Olympic Rugby Team For Rio Games

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Nate Ebner officially is an Olympian.

The New England Patriots safety on Monday was one of 12 players selected to United States national rugby sevens team that will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics next month in Rio de Janeiro.

Ebner, a rugby standout before converting to football during his junior year at Ohio State, has been on leave from the Patriots since March. He is the only current NFL player set to compete in Rio.

The 27-year-old has played in 57 games for New England since being drafted in 2012, and while he is used only sparingly on the defensive side of the ball, he quickly developed into one of Bill Belichick’s top special teams players.

The U.S., which placed sixth in each of the last two HSBC Sevens World Series, will be one of 12 nations vying for gold this summer as the sport makes its first Olympic appearance since 1924. Its first game is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9 against Argentina.

“We know that on any given Sunday we have the power, pace and physicality to match and beat anyone,” U.S. head coach Mike Friday said in a statement. “The boys recognize the magnitude of the task but are confident that we can be medal contenders if we play to our ability. We will represent the people of the USA in a way that they expect and deserve, exhibiting the characteristics that will make them proud.”

Other notable names to crack the Eagles’ 12-man roster include captain Madison Hughes, who played his college rugby at Dartmouth College, and speedsters Carlin Isles and Perry Baker.

Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images

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