Nate Ebner knows a little something about high pressure environments, so it was no surprise that the Singapore Sevens did little to throw him off his game when he made a return to rugby after so many years out at the highest level.
The 2015 Superbowl Champion picked scored a brace, but was also welcomed back with a big hit.
Ebner was granted a special release from the New England Patriots – who he signed with for another two years in March – so that he can pursue his dream of playing rugby for his country at the Rio Olympics.
He first made the USA Sevens team at the tender age of 17, but later thrived in the NFL, culminating in victory in the Superbowl last year. The rugby dream has always been there though, so he has given it another crack in the hopes of getting a shot at the Olympics.
All eyes were on the 27-year-old when the USA took on Portugal, and it was clear that he is capable of the hard graft, as he got himself in good positions to pick up a brace of tries.
Against France however, Ebner was welcomed back to rugby by big Fijian born Virimi Vakatawa, who slammed him to the turf in a crunching tackle.
It looked like the only person who bought the dummy as his own teammate.
Although he played 15-a-side rugby for the USA at junior level, upon returning to the sport Ebner has seen how physically taxing it can be, especially when playing Sevens.
“I would say that rugby sevens training is one of the toughest I’ve ever had to go through.
“You don’t get better at it until you push yourself to the point of exhaustion, where instead of resting, you have to keep on working harder. When I’m training for the NFL, I’m used to a lot of heavy lifting, explosive movements and high-effort workouts,” he explained.
“But these things are usually done for brief moments. So it’s not as taxing on your body as compared to the shock your nervous system gets [in sevens] when your cardiovascular system is pushed to the limit time and again.
“It takes a lot of getting used to, especially for the bigger guys. It’s not fun, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make if you want to play the game at a top level.”
From what he has shown so far, he certainly has the ingredients to make it to the Olympics, and while he still has a bit of time to show his talent on the World Sevens Series circuit, his collegiate rugby highlights do a pretty good job of showing off exactly what he has to offer.
— USA Sevens Rugby (@USASevensRugby) April 7, 2016