While many New England Patriots fans are feeling a bit… you know… about the recent hullaballoo, there are still plenty of reasons to feel good about our beloved team, in addition to the fact that they are Super Bowl champions.
Top on this list is safety Nate Ebner. Born in Ohio, the son of a religious school principal at Temple Shalom of Springfield, Ohio, he followed in his father’s footsteps in multiple ways. At the age of 17, Ebner became the youngest player on the United States National Rugby team and also won the MVP award in both the 2007 and 2008 International Rugby Board (IRB) Junior World Championships.
“My father chose to play rugby in college after having a good high school career,” Ebner explained, “but he had an injury his senior year which had a negative effect on colleges looking to recruit him. He ended up playing at Minnesota and Drake, and continued to play the rest of his life.”
In addition to following in his father’s athletic footsteps, Ebner also took his father’s religious proclivities and moral compass to heart.
“He taught me the importance of being Jewish,” Ebner says of his father. “My dad stressed finishing strong in every task I did, and conduct myself always in a proper manner.”
Though his father has passed away, Ebner still relies on his grandparents to support his spiritual upbringing. “They make sure I keep up with Jewish events and that I remember my origins,” he said.
Citing hard work, discipline, persistence, family, and treating others with respect as some of the “core values” that were instilled in him by both his parents and also by other members of his Jewish community, Ebner is keen to point out that his mother also played a vital role in motivating him and pushing him to strive for excellence in everything he does.
“Just being raised with my mother and father,” he mused, “there was no such thing as quitting or complaining. If I didn’t do it, someone else would.”
Though he did not play American football in high school, Ebner again bucked the odds as an Ohio State Buckeye when he walked on in his junior year of college. He would eventually play 36 games for the perennial powerhouse, enjoying 30 tackles as a special teams player between 2009-11.
“The process at Ohio State was intense,” Ebner said, recalling trying out against over 70 other potential players, many of whom had more experience on the football field than he had. “Once we got started, the real athletes stood out compared to the ones that had their Ohio State jerseys on and just wanted to say they were on the team.” While many attempted to play for the Buckeyes so they could have tales of glory, Ebner tried out for another reason.
“I had two years left of college and I told my parents I would graduate and get my degree first,” he explains, “and so I did.”
His remarkable collegiate performance led the Patriots to draft Ebner in 2012, and he has been a Patriot since.
“What doesn’t attract you to an organization like the Patriots?” asked Ebner who, along with some teammates, is represented by Salem’s own football star, Sean Stellato. “It’s as professional as it gets, with a winning atmosphere built on hard work and discipline.” As Coach Bill Belichick’s “core values” seemed to align with his own, Ebner saw the Pats as a great fit and has fit in well since day one.
“I thought it was a good fit for me, considering my background and the type of person that I am that I play for an organization like the Patriots,” Ebner says, noting that he has established strong relationships with Belichick (who puts Ebner “in the top five percent all time of players that I’ve coached,” in terms of development) and Owner Robert Kraft and the entire Kraft family. “It’s an organization that is built on hard work and when people see you working hard they give you respect and you give it back seeing them put their work in as well. It’s a great place to be and I’m very happy I landed there!”
While his values and persistence have gotten him far, the Patriots organization is famous for its demanding schedules and structures. Fortunately, Ebner is up to the task.
“It can be a grind at times,” he admits, “but I feel I bring to my team whatever it is that’s asked of me. I come ready to work hard and try and get better each day, and help my teammates along the way. That’s really where my focus is and I let everything else take care of itself.” With one Super Bowl ring in only his third season, Ebner’s values, enthusiasm and development seem to be well taken care of and he is happy with his position and eager to use it to inspire others to stick to their values and work hard.
“I hope to show others that really anything you set your mind to can be achieved through working extremely hard,” he says. “Staying the course, and taking a step forward each day will add up in the end as long as you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you set out to do from the beginning.”
“I try to be a role model or an example every day and understand that I’m privileged to be in the position I’m in,” he said. “I want to make the biggest impact I can while I’m here.”