New England Patriots special teamer and backup safety Nate Ebner is making the most of his sabbatical from football.
On Monday morning the USA Rugby team announced its 12-man roster for the men's sevens team and it includes the 27-year-old Ebner.
A lifelong rugby player and former member of the U.S. national program in his teens, Ebner's heart called for the sport when he discovered that the International Olympics Committee was adding men's rugby sevens for Rio for the first time ever (as opposed to the traditional 15-a-side game that men have not played at the Olympics since 1924).
"I just keep my head down and keep going," Ebner told the L.A. Times recently of his effort to secure a spot on the roster. "Just want to earn respect through my work ethic."
But first he had to get Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's blessing.
"Even though he will be away from our team during an important period of our off-season," Belichick said in a statement, "he will still be getting excellent physical training and I expect him to be ready for the football season like he always is."
Ebner, a forward, has said that his lungs became sore from the grueling training and competition for the sevens game, which plays faster than the 15-man contest.
After fellow AFC East player Marquise Goodwin of the Buffalo Bills failed to qualify in the long jump after a seventh place finish at the trials, Ebner will be the NFL's sole representative at the Olympics.