The Patriots have an Olympian on their roster.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, special-teams standout Nate Ebner has qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team and will be competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio. Schefter said he received the information from Ebner's agent, Sean Stellano:
Ebner had been given a leave of absence by the Pats this offseason to pursue his Olympic dream. Last November, in a wide-ranging interview with CSN's Tom E. Curran, Ebner talked about the importance of rugby in his life and the connection it provided to his father, who was murdered in a robbery at the family's auto-reclamation shop when Ebner was 19.
In March, when it was announced Ebner would be trying out for the Olympics, he told reporters on a conference call how much rugby meant to him.
"As I was playing football I’ve always kept in contact with the friends that I’ve made, and I’ve watched friends as they’ve grown and had more success playing rugby," he said. "It’s something I’ve always watched and kept close attention to even though I’ve been kind of been doing other things obviously.
"With rugby coming into the Olympics in 2016 obviously this year -- especially with the background I have -- how can you not think about or have any desire towards wanting to do that, especially if it was your first passion?"
"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," Ebner told ESPN. "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. 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."
Last month, fellow special-teamer Matthew Slater talked of how "awesome" it was that Ebner was getting the chance to be an Olympian.
"How many guys can say they won a Super Bowl and played in the Olympics?" Slater said. "We support him 100 percent . . . I’ve got to get a jersey of my guy and represent him, but what a unique opportunity that is. We’re all proud of him and the opportunity that he has."
The rugby competition in Rio ends on Aug. 11, and Ebner will rejoin the Patriots upon its conclusion.