Ex-rugby player Ebner: 'Maybe I got a screw loose'

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Ex-rugby player Ebner: 'Maybe I got a screw loose'

FOXBORO -- One thing was clear after speaking with Patriots draft pick Nate Ebner on Saturday evening's conference call: He was as shocked to be drafted as anyone.
"I just didn't want to expect anything and I didn't want to get overly excited," he said in a rush. "I hoped I would get a chance to be on a team -- especially the Patriots -- and words can't describe how excited I am to be a part of this organization. The fact I got drafted it just makes me so happy. And my family's happy and we're so excited about the opportunity. I'm really at a loss for words about the whole thing."
You see, Ebner isn't just an undrafted free agent-type talent who snuck into the seventh round. He's not, at his core, a football player.
Ohio State's website lists just two career notes for defensive back Ebner: Rugby convert to the secondary; joined the Buckeyes as a walk-on in 2009.
Huh?
"It was a long drawn out process," he said of the switch. "I was playing rugby, especially age grade stuff, and I was down at the World Cup in college and I couldn't do the professional rugby and college at the same time.
"I wanted to play football my senior year in high school and I didn't. So I decided I'd go out for Ohio State -- what better college program would you want to be a part of. Ohio State especially as a kid growing up in Columbus. I did it and it's worked out pretty well."
Ebner gave pee wee football a shot as a kid, but rugby is in his blood. Ebner said his father played and so he's been around the game since he was six years old. Unfortunately, that influence outlives his dad; Jeff Ebner was killed in 2008 when a robbery was attempted at his auto salvage business.
Nate appears not to mourn as much as honor.
"Obviously, it was devastating. Nobody wants to lose their father -- especially the way that happened. But, the type of person he was and our relationship, I can only draw strength from it. I never really was one to pity myself. I don't know how he would feel about me feeling bad for myself because he was gone.
"He would say every day, 'If I die tomorrow, I wouldn't be mad about it, the way I lived.' So I don't want to, as a son, be sad about it. If I just try to draw strength from it. I'm so lucky to have a person like that in my life, especially as a father figure. He was amazing."
Rugby is now happily shelved, with all due respect. Ebner, despite having zero expectations of being drafted, will now fight for a chance to play for the defending AFC Champion Patriots.
Play where? Maybe not the secondary. Though he played both nickel back and safety at Ohio State, Ebner was considered a special teams stalwart at Ohio State.
"I was a safety and practice with them a lot I got a couple plays in a game at nickel back but my role at Ohio State, they wanted me to play special teams and that's what I did. The coaches wanted that and I gave everything I had into that. I baked up Tyler Moeller at nickel back last year and obviously some safety stuff. Just did what the coaches needed of me."
If any aspects of his first sports love will help in this next venture, it's tough to say.
"It compares in the fact that we hit each other and there's a lot of running and some big dudes. I don't know that it compares a lot. I'd say the speed of the game and the tackling are similar, but they're very different sports. I guess when it's time to come down and hit somebody, as we're running down on kickoff, I'd say that's very similar to the time we come down in a rugby game and you've got to hit somebody."
Kickoff, you see, is his favorite part of the game.
"Because because, I don't know why," he laughed. The attempted explanation was muddled with intensity. "I just enjoy running down as fast as you can. It's just mayhem, it's exciting. It's such a rush. I don't know. It happens so fast it's just one big blur and then it's over. I just love it, it's amazing. Maybe I got a screw loose."
Sounds like, at least, Ebner will give New England's special teams units a much-needed jolt. It's hard to know what else to expect -- from a rugby player.

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

Tom Brady claims No. 1 spot on NFL's top 100 list

The NFL Network revealed the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished in the No. 1 spot.

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

Several Patriots players made the cut on this year's list: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Brady was also voted in as the No. 1 player back in 2011. 

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL's Top 10 list revealed Monday night: Where does Tom Brady wind up?

NFL players vote every year on which players should make up the list of the best their game has to offer, but it's an imperfect system. And that's probably putting it lightly. 

The NFL Network will reveal the final 10 players on its annual Top 100 list Monday night at 8 p.m. It will be an order that has been chosen by some players, not all. Of those who took part, some hastily made their way through a handful of names at the end of last season handing over their choices. 

Yet it's the list the league ends up with, for better or for worse, prompting responses like JJ Watt's when he found out he was No. 35 this year after playing in three games last season. 

On NFL.com, the Top 100 list is described as the answer to the question, "Who are the top 100 players in the NFL today?" If that's the criteria -- and not simply performance in 2016 -- then Watt's complaint actually doesn't hold much water. If he's healthy, no one would argue that he's one of the best 35 players "in the NFL today."

This year, several Patriots players from 2016 made the cut: Rob Gronkowski (No. 23), LeGarrette Blount (No. 80), Julian Edelman (No. 71), Dont'a Hightower (No. 94) and Malcolm Butler (No. 99). 

Tom Brady will be the last of Bill Belichick's players to be named. He's lumped into a Top 10 that will include Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Von Miller and Khalil Mack.

Here's what we think the list should look like when the curtain falls on the finale of this flawed endeavor:

10. Elliott
9. Beckham
8. Bell
7. Brown
6. Ryan
5. Jones
4. Miller
3. Mack
2. Rodgers
1. Brady