NFL Player has high hopes for USA 7s
NEWS: New England Patriots defensive back and United States of America Sevens player Nate Ebner hopes the Sevens side will set the pace for the sport's development in the USA.
Ebner, who has worked on special teams to help the Patriots capture Super Bowl XLIX last year, was given permission by the team in March to chase his Olympic dream - making him the only National Football League (NFL) player with a chance to capture gold in Brazil.
He is no rookie to rugby sevens.
Ebner became the youngest ever USA Sevens player at age 17 before going to Ohio State where he split time with rugby and American football until he started his NFL career.
"I hope it changes the game and that we can be trailblazers for something great in the United States," Ebner said.
"Obviously, those are our hopes and dreams for this sport. I love this sport and I want to see it have tremendous success but that's ultimately up to the people back in the United States and how they embrace the game and how many people get involved."
The USA started with defeat on Tuesday, going down to Argentina 17-14 in a Pool A thriller before rebounding to hosts Brazil 26-0.
Ebner scored a try in the second game, but was also yellow-carded for a late tackle that wouldn't have looked out of place in the NFL.
When asked whether he had flicked back into "football mode" for his late hit, which left an Argentinian prone for a couple of minutes.
"Not really, your natural instincts take over," he said.
"You practise and eventually you let your natural instincts take over.
"Sevens and football are very different games. Football is a violent game played right at one another. But at times out here, it can get very violent as well,"
Ebner admitted to being quite overwhelmed by his maiden Olympic participation.
"It's been a great experience, something I've never experienced before," he continued.
"To be a part of something this big and this prestigious, it's an honour to be part of it and an honour to be here with this group of guys, who work so hard and are some of the toughest guys I've ever met."
Ebner's presence in Rio even interrupted the Patriots pre-season training camp with the team stopping to watch him play.
"I heard something about that and I appreciate it," he said.
"I just try to embrace the moment, take it for what it is and cherish the moment."
Ebner will miss about two weeks of pre-season workouts for New England coach Bill Belichick while with the American squad.
However, he is confident he would return in great cardio form, albeit a little underweight.