Nate Ebner, a backup safety and special teams stalwart for the New England Patriots, was named Monday to the U.S. Olympic rugby sevens team that will compete next month at the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ebner joins former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best, who qualified for the track team of St. Lucia, his father's homeland, as Olympians with NFL ties.
The Patriots drafted Ebner in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft though he never played high school football and — concentrating mostly on rugby — only walked on to Ohio State's football team during his junior year. In March, soon after signing a two-year contract extension with the Patriots, he took a leave of absence to train to make the U.S. rugby sevens team.
He is expected to rejoin New England at training camp after the Olympic rugby event ends; it will take place Aug. 9-11.
Rugby sevens is a quicker variant of the game most known around in the world; instead of 15 players per team playing 40-minute halves, there are seven per side playing seven-minute halves.
Swinging away: Golf's return to the Olympics after 112 years will have seven Americans, the most of any country for men and women.
It just won't have their top two men.
USA Golf nominated the players, who qualified through the world ranking last week. They require U.S. Olympic Committee approval.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and two-time major champion Jordan Spieth withdrew, Johnson because of the Zika virus threat and Spieth for overall health concerns.
The Americans have four men from the top 15 — Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. The women have three players from the top 15 — Lexi Thompson, Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller.
Meanwhile, Camilo Villegas of Colombia, a former college standout at Florida, pulled out of the Olympics because he is trying to keep his job on the PGA Tour.
While he considered the Zika virus — Villegas, 34, and his wife are trying to start a family — in making his decision, he said his main concern is that he's No. 146 in the FedEx Cup standings. Only the top 125 advance to the playoffs and keep full cards for the following season.