Giants' Nate Ebner's Heart Breaks for Fellow Olympians Whose Dreams are on Hold Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

Patricia Traina

For the time being, Giants defensive back and special teams ace Nate Ebner is fortunate.

Ebner is currently safe at home in Columbus, Ohio, where he’s been able to keep up with his workouts ahead of the 2020 NFL season at a time where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced so many athletes to alter or postpone their annual training preparation.

But just because Ebner's training hasn’t been as affected doesn’t mean that his heart isn’t breaking for the scores of athletes--especially those whose gold medal Olympic dreams--whose training has.

Ebner knows a thing or two about training for the Olympics. In 2016, he was an Olympian himself, becoming the only NFL player in league history to participate in the Olympic games and win an NFL championship in the same year.  

“Yeah, I mean, I just hope (the Olympics) doesn't get postponed for another year or canceled,” he said during a conference call with reporters who regularly cover the Giants. “I hope things settle down and obviously like everything goes back to normal, but I hope that the Olympics is held in 2021 like they're saying. 

“My heart would be broken for those who have fought so hard to get to this point and then have it ripped away. I can personally speak about the rugby players that I had personal experiences with trying to make the 2016 team who were young and didn’t make it, and they were counting on this opportunity and to have that be taken away. 

“I've seen personally the work they put in over the last four years and the years before that trying to get in 2016 and to have it potentially like canceled and then then the next opportunity wouldn't be until 2024? I mean, my heart would break for those guys and girls, so I hope that doesn't happen. But you know, right now, they need to figure out things, like the rest of the world is.”

Growing up, rugby was Ebner’s preferred sport—to this day, he still maintains an interest in it as he holds part ownership in Major League Rugby’s New England Free Jacks club. But although he spends his days on a football field, he credited rugby for helping lay part of the foundation necessary for him to become so successful in football and on special teams.

“Rugby played a big part in me being able to transition to football,” Ebner said. “The tackling--that aspect of both sports you do a lot of tackling, but even the tackling can be very different.”

While the physical aspect is similar, Ebner noted that the mental part varies.  

“Rugby can be very like basketball, like you just kind of feel out whatever the situation is. Is it a fast break, or is it a half-court set piece? That's how rugby is. But football is very studied, and you need to recognize some things that have come up before or a formation and remember checks. It's a very different head game. They're both two physical sports, but at the end of the day, they're very different as well.”

But even as Ebner continues his football training—as of now, the start of the 2020 NFL season remains on schedule—his thoughts are with the future Olympians. 

“They just need to make the most of what the situation is,” Ebner said. “Take the opportunity to rest and get their bodies right and hopefully get everybody healthy. So it's a, it's a tough out, and hopefully, everything works out a year from now.”