New England Patriots defensive back Nate Ebner was named Monday to the US rugby sevens team for the Rio Olympics, making him the only National Football League (NFL) player with a chance to capture gold in Brazil.
Ebner, who also worked on special teams to help the Patriots capture last year's Super Bowl crown, was given permission by the team last March to chase his Olympic dream, an opportunity he called "humbling" and "amazing."
Ebner will miss about two weeks of pre-season workouts for New England coach Bill Belichick while with the American squad.
"I'm going to miss a few things I don't want to but at the end of the day it's a really big opportunity for me," Ebner said.
"I think Bill understands rugby is a passion of mine and that's where my background lies."
Ebner was the youngest-ever US Sevens player at age 17 before going to Ohio State, where he split time with rugby and American football until he started his NFL career, never losing his love for rugby.
"Even though he will be away from our team during an important period of our off-season, he will still be getting excellent physical training,"
"I expect him to be ready for the football season like he always is."
The Americans, who won gold when rugby was last played in the Olympics back in 1924 in the 15-a-side format, will be captained by Madison Hughes, the all-time US scoring leader in the IRB Sevens Series, and USA Sevens regulars Zack Test, Folau Niua, Danny Barrett, Garrett Bender and Maka Unufe.
Carlin Isles, dubbed "the fastest man in rugby," and Perry Baker, the second-highest try-scorer from the 2015-16 series, are also featured along with Andrew Durutalo and Chris Wyles, who took the European Champions Cup and English Premiership double with Saracens this past season.