New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is taking a leave of absence from the NFL to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team, his agent reported this week.
The player’s agent Sean Stellato said that the team gave him permission to take a break from football to begin training at the U.S. Olympic training camp in California. He’ll return after the Olympic rugby competitions held in mid August.
According to ESPN, Ebner, who was an All-America rugby player at Ohio State, told the media, “First and foremost, I want to thank the Patriots from top to bottom for giving me the opportunity to come back and play for a truly first-class organization.”
“I also want to thank them and USA Rugby for giving me the opportunity to chase a dream I’ve had since I was a boy in a sport in which I’ve always had a passion,” Ebner added. “I can’t put into words how much this opportunity means to not only me, but my friends and family as well.”
“I plan to represent the Patriots and our country to the best of my ability. Thanks again and Go Pats and go USA,” he concluded.
The Patriots took to Twitter to announce its support for Ebner’s Olympic dreams.
We are proud to support @Natebner34 in his effort to earn a place on the United States National Rugby team.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) March 15, 2016
The player recently re-signed with the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent. As Ebner, in his fourth season with New England, has 57 regular-season games under his belt.
“Overall,” the Patriots say on their website, Ebner “has accumulated 50 special teams tackles, including 11 special teams tackles in 15 games played last season.”
The American rugby team qualified for the summer games after defeating Canada 21-5 in June at the NACRA Sevens Championships.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com