Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/7/12

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Nate Ebner #34 of the Ohio State Buckeyes forces a fumble on Arrelious Benn #9 of the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Nate Ebner runs a 4.55 40-yard dash, can power up 23 reps on the bench press, to go along with a 39”  vertical leap.

Also boasts a 4.04 shuttle time, and a 6.59 three cone time. All while measuring in at 6 feet and 202 pounds.

Prior to his highly impressive Pro Day, Ohio State’s Nate Ebner wasn’t expecting to play football professionally. Rather, his focus was on the sport he had truly excelled in: Rugby.

Ebner had been one of the premier college rugby players in the country.

He played well on special teams after making Ohio State’s football team as a walk-on, but was expecting to play rugby professionally overseas after graduation.

However, those eye-popping numbers grabbed the attention of NFL scouts.

Come draft day, Ebner was drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots. After missing a week or so of training camp due to injury, Ebner has recently made it back to the field and begun the uphill climb to make the Pats' 53-man roster.

Ebner’s draft status combined with his relative football inexperience (he rarely saw the field on defense while at Ohio State) have left many to write him off as a long shot to make the team.

However, it looks like he will have ample chances to prove them wrong over the next few weeks. Ebner was immediately put on the first team kickoff unit in training camp practices once he returned from injury. He also saw time on defense, teaming up with second-rounder, Tavon Wilson, at second-string safety with veteran James Ihedigbo out with injury.

At worst, Ebner projects as a productive special teams player. He has some explosive athletic ability and is a physical tackler. His athletic ability also gives him some potential as a defensive back. It can’t hurt that Mike Vrabel, former Patriots star and current Ohio State linebackers coach, reportedly praised Ebner when Belichick inquired about the rugby star.

Ebner earned his reputation as a highly-coachable team player and locker room leader since walking onto Ohio State’s football team in 2009. Despite his walk-on status, it was Ebner who addressed the entire team and coaching staff in the locker room days after their stunning upset loss to Purdue.

Many in the locker room credited Ebner’s heartfelt speech, which included his late father’s mantra “finish strong”, with turning the season around after a devastating loss. The Buckeyes never lost again the rest of the way, finishing up a 11-2 season with a win in the Rose Bowl over No. 7 Oregon.

By the way, his career arc puts him in decent company so far. College rugby standout is drafted in the late rounds of the draft and develops into a feared special teams assassin? Steve Tasker fits that bill.

Like Tasker, Ebner should benefit from his rugby background in the NFL. For starters, Rugby’s lack of padding requires a far more fundamental approach to tackling than that displayed by a startling amount of football players. Rugby also requires a great deal of physical and mental toughness, both qualities which obviously correlate to football.

Rugby sevens, a variation of the sport in which Ebner excelled, will particularly aid Ebner’s transition to NFL secondary play. Sevens is named for the number of players on the field per side. This is significantly less than the fifteen fielded in regulation rugby, leading to a far more wide open and explosive game.

Ebner’s elite athleticism allowed him to make many breakaway runs in sevens, but his experience defensively will help him more with the Pats. The wide open game requires excellent open field tackling. With only seven players on a side, a single missed tackle can prove extremely costly. Note in the video that he is low and wraps up on every tackle. Once in his grasp, not many players will be able to break free.

This style of play also necessitates smart angles to the ball carrier. These are both skills that will especially help an aspiring safety. Note the play in the attached video that begins at the 41 second mark.

Alone in the open field, Ebner takes an excellent angle that ensures he will be able to make the tackle. Such a skill can limit big plays and the additional damage that can be done after the catch. These are both things that were clearly lacking in the Patriots secondary last year.

Rugby also requires an elite level of fitness, as play is very rarely stopped in a rugby match. This could help give Ebner a leg up on his competition, particularly in a modern football era dominated by no-huddle passing offenses.

Ebner also stands to benefit from the relative lack of depth in New England’s secondary. Patrick Chung has proven to be productive but also injury-prone. Free agent addition Steve Gregory is projected as a serviceable starter, but nothing more.

Beyond that there are few proven options, although rookie second-rounder, Tavon Wilson, has impressed so far in camp. Josh Barrett is quickly running out of chances to channel his potential into on-field play. James Ihedigbo was repeatedly victimized when he started last year. Sergio Brown was even worse. Ross Ventrone is merely a camp body.

Ebner’s chances might have taken a hit with his missed time to injury, but his long-term potential and immediate ability to contribute on special teams should give him a decent chance to make the squad. A strong showing in the preseason should result in a spot on the 53-man roster this fall.
 

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Sanu: Halftime show played role in Super Bowl collapse

James Dolan is among potential group of investors of new arena for New York Islanders

Report: Rams, Clippers discussing NBA venue in Inglewood

Terrence Jones reportedly interested in joining Celtics

LeBron reverses course, says he ‘always felt good’ about Cavs

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Ole Miss tried to implicate Mississippi State in football scandal

Jamaal Charles could be on the roster bubble

Jimmy Butler on state of Bulls: ‘I just want to win at all costs’

Report: Giants will be ‘aggressive’ in trying to sign Jason Pierre-Paul

Report: Porzingis avoided ligament damage in ankle

Brooks Koepka meltdown includes whiff, stomping head off driver

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Box Score 2/24: A night of NBA disrespect

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

The NFL off-season is a passer’s fancy

The Aesthetic: Pushing the boundaries of the three-pointer

NBA coaches who should be fired soon

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

James Dolan is among potential group of investors of new arena for New York Islanders

Top 10 shortstops in baseball for 2017

The most dangerous NBA teams flying under the radar

Eat, Drink, Watch: Your award-worthy weekend planning guide

Grading the NBA trade deadline on the Vince Carter scale

Streaming sports docuseries you don't want to miss

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

The 'Pete Rose instead of Kareem? Surely, you can't be serious' quiz

Teams that can prevent a Cavs-Warriors NBA Finals three-peat

The NFL off-season is a passer’s fancy

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker