NFL star Nate Ebner targets Team USA rugby sevens medal at Tokyo Olympics

Three-time Super Bowl winner Ebner signed a contract with the New York Giants in 2020, but will be temporarily released in order to have another shot at Olympic Games glory in 2021 with the U.S.

By Andrew Binner
Picture by 2016 Getty Images

New York Giants safety Nate Ebner has announced his intention to rejoin the USA rugby sevens team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

At Rio 2016, the three-time Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, became the first active NFL athlete to compete in the Olympics.

However, a disappointing group-stage exit meant that he wanted another shot at winning an Olympic medal.

The 32-year-old signed with the Giants in March 2020 as a free agent. After playing in all 16 games last season, the New York franchise have granted the special teams man temporary release in order to chase his rugby dream.

“Not getting a medal in that last Olympics is something that really bothers me,” Ebner said in a statement. “When I reflect on what’s important in my life, if I’m being honest, that was high priority.

“Not winning a medal, especially when I thought that we had the team to do it, and as I look at the growth in the last five years, we definitely have an even better chance this time around. It’s something I would really like to be a part of.”

He will join a training squad of around 30 players trying out for 12 spots on the U.S. Rugby sevens team for the Olympics, which begin on 23rd July 2021 in Japan.

Ebner free to bring Super Bowl experience again

Back in 2016, the USA sevens team were known for their individual flair, but also their inconsistency as a team.

That all changed after the Rio Olympics.

In the 2018-19 World Rugby Sevens Series - the last fully completed series before the coronavirus pandemic hit - the Eagles finished second overall.

Carlin Isles was the team’s top scorer back then, and remains a key part of the team and one of the best players in the world.

Meanwhile the team’s other flying winger, and former World Sevens Player of the Year, Perry Baker will also be hopeful of another Olympic appearance if he can shake off his recent leg injury.

With such talent in the squad, Ebner’s place on the plane to japan is anything but a foregone conclusion. But the 32-year-old will give it his all for one last crack at winning an Olympic medal.

“I want the USA to experience rugby the way I have, and I think winning a medal in the Olympics is a great step toward that, that recognition,” he said when the news was confirmed on Monday (15th March), the same week that the NFL free agency period opens ahead of the 2021/22 season starting on 9th September.

“When I really assess everything, that's a big motivation to me. Even if I don’t make the team, helping the team get to a place where they need to be going into the Olympics to win a medal, that’s a big motivation.

“There will come a time when physically I’m not capable of doing any of this stuff. When that day comes, I won’t do it, but while I can I will.”

Ebner had previously told Olympic Channel that former Patriots teammate Rob Gronkowski would have 'a lot of success' at 7s, but that Tom Brady should stick to American Football.