FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Some football players aren't happy when they are told they need to play special teams. New Patriots safety Nate Ebner is not one of those players.
Asked by reporters via conference call following his selection in the sixth-round (197th overall) on Saturday about which special teams unit he enjoyed playing on the most at Ohio State, Ebner's answer showed just how enthusiastic he is about his potential role in New England.
"Kickoff, probably. Because ... I don't know why. I just enjoy running down as fast as you can. It's just mayhem, it's exciting, it's crazy. It's such a rush. I don't even know what to say about it," Ebner told reporters. "It happens so fast. It's just one big blur, and then it's over. I just love it. It's just amazing. Maybe I got a screw loose."
A rugby player until his third year of college, when he walked on to the Ohio State football team, Ebner said that the two sports have some overlap.
"It compares in the fact that we hit each other, and there's a lot of running, and there's some big dudes," Ebner explained. "I'd say the speed of the game, the tackling, they're similar."
Having only played three defensive snaps last season, Ebner admitted that he was not getting his hopes up for getting drafted.
"I didn't want to expect anything, and I didn't want to get overly excited," Ebner said. "I hoped I would get a chance to get on a team, especially the Patriots. Words can't describe how excited I am to be a part of this organization."
Ebner said that his first contact with the Patriots was with defensive assistant coach Brian Flores, who also assists special teams coach Scott O'Brien. Ebner did not fly to New England for a workout.
"After my Pro Day, I had spoken with a couple teams and had stated that I might get a shot here and there with some talk with some scouts," Ebner said. "I heard that I might get a chance and get a job with a team, and that's all I wanted. I just wanted a shot to prove myself and just get a chance, really."
Ebner developed a "good relationship" with former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel, who joined Ohio State as an assistant coach last season. Vrabel stressed to Ebner how his special teams prowess could translate into an NFL career.
"He highly stressed it. He understand that it's an important part of the game as anything else," Ebner said. "He really made it clear to me the things you do every day at Ohio State you can play in the NFL for years. He knew the importance of special teams. We tried to spread that throughout the team."
In 2008, Ebner's father, a former rugby player, was killed during a robbery attempt at his auto-salvaging business. The younger Ebner said he drew strength from the personal tragedy, similar to second-round pick Tavon Wilson, whose father was also murdered early in his childhood.
"Obviously, it was devastating. Nobody wants to lose their father, especially how that happened. But the type of person he was, and our relationship, I can only draw strength from it," Ebner said. "I was never really one to pity myself. I don't know how he would feel about feeling bad for myself because he was gone. He was one to say every day 'If I died tomorrow, I wouldn't be mad about the way I lived.' So I don't want to as a son be sad about it. I'm so lucky to have a person like that in my life, especially as a father figure, he was amazing."