Olympic hopeful Nate Ebner ‘thankful’ for the support of Joe Judge

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Earlier this year, NFL veteran Nate Ebner returned to the United States men’s national rugby team with his sights set on the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Ebner had previously been part of the opening ceremonies at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, but this time around, his goals are a bit loftier. However, his quest would not have happened if not for the support of New York Giants head coach Joe Judge.

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“Joe Judge was there the whole time, he saw me do what I did in ’16 and thankfully I have him around this time and he knew what it did for me as a football player, he knew what it meant to me. When you have that support, it just allows you to confidently go towards what you want to do, and I don’t have to second guess their support or where I stand with them when it is done,” Ebner told Talking Rugby Union.

“Ultimately, I think they like me for who I am and the character that I have and the effort I put towards my job every day and the consistency I bring. Bill [Belichick] respects that, Joe respects that. I think it is the character, it is the work ethic, it is the consistency of who I am.”

And Judge has never waivered in that support of Ebner — not in 2016 when he was an assistant with the New England Patriots and not here in 2021 as head coach of the Giants.

“We are proud to support Nate in his effort to earn a place on the United States National Rugby team,” Judge said in March. “This is the second time I have been with Nate while he tries to make the team to represent our country in the Olympics. We know that rugby has been an important part of Nate’s life since he was a young man, and Dave (Gettleman) and I both encouraged him to pursue this opportunity. Nate’s rugby training will keep him in great shape this offseason, and we will stay in touch with him as he goes through the process.”

When Ebner’s quest for Olympic gold concludes, the Giants and Judge will be there to welcome him back with open arms.

“Technically Nate is a free agent right now but we fully intend for him to be a member of the Giants and he has to go through Olympic rugby training and we’re supporting him with that,” Judge said in May. “But that’s an experience I’ve been through with him before. Actually he returned from the Olympics in 2016 and had a tremendous year for us. So I’ve gone through this before with him. I understand exactly how his training applies, rugby and can lead into football, and look, honestly it was one of his most productive years ever.

“He’s a guy that’s very locked in and focused. He was a captain last year and is a great team leader. This team, what he’s helping build is very important for him and while I don’t speak for anyone else, I don’t mind going echoing that for Nate because I know I can speak very directly and honestly. But look, he’s a very important part of this team and we look forward to getting him back.”