“This is by far his best year,” the Patriots coach said. “It’s somewhat unexpected. He had a very grueling offseason. He talked about some of the workouts he went through in preparation for the Olympics. One thing is that when he came back, he was in great shape. There’s no question about that.”
— New England head coach Bill Belichick on Nate Ebner, as reported by Zack Cox (NESN)
With Super Bowl LI taking place on Sunday, New England Patriot Nate Ebner has the chance to cap off an extraordinary year. Ebner competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics as part of the rugby sevens squad, and now has a chance to bring home his second Super Bowl trophy.
To get to the pinnacle for two sports wasn’t easy, though.
As NESN’s Zack Cox reported, Ebner took a leave of absence from the Patriots leading up to the Olympics competition, and got back to the team during the preseason. Fortunately for coach Bill Belichick, Ebner didn’t miss a beat when he got back to the gridiron.
The six time Super Bowl winning coach said that this was Ebner’s best season. From a statistical standpoint, Ebner racked up 19 tackles on special teams—tied for the most by a special teams member this season. On top of that, Ebner picked up second team All-Pro honors. Taking the former Buckeye in the sixth round of the 2012 draft is paying dividends, as Ebner has increased his tackle totals in each of the last four seasons.
We’ll see if Ebner can help bring another Super Bowl back to Boston, as the Patriots and Atlanta Falcons square off at 6:30 p.m. ET Sunday.
"I actually thought I was going somewhere later in the draft, and then [the Cowboys] called and I thought I was going there...and then [the Steelers] called and I ended up going there. It's crazy."
— Ryan Shazier on where he thought he would be drafted at in 2014, as reported by Jon Machota (Sports Day)
While Ebner’s Patriots knocked off Ryan Shazier and his Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship a couple weeks ago, Shazier was at least able to take in the NFL Pro Bowl festivities.
There, Shazier talked about Draft day 2014—and how he thought he was headed to the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys had the No. 16 pick in the draft, and had plenty of options to go with. (Remember this was the same draft where Johnny Manziel was available at No. 16, and signs pointed to Manziel staying in the state of Texas to play professional football.) But, America’s Team was interested in the former Buckeye standout.
However, the Steelers called in at No. 15, and the rest is history. This year, Shazier is coming off of another career year with 87 total tackles and three interceptions, which helped put him in Pro Bowl territory after Baltimore Ravens defenseman C.J. Mosley couldn’t make the scrimmage due to injury.
But you can’t stop thinking about the potential the Cowboys could’ve had with Shazier in the middle of the defense. Additionally, you have to think about how drafting Shazier would affect the Cowboys future picks. Would Ezekiel Elliott have been drafted to Dallas in 2016? Nobody will ever know for sure.
“[Kyle] Snyder is a world and Olympic champion not just college wrestling but at the senior level. You’re the best in the world at your weight class.”
— Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson on Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder, as reported by Nate Cobler (Centre Daily Times)
Football features some throwing down on the gridiron, but not as much compared to an actual wrestling competition. On Friday night, there’ll be a top five showdown as No. 2 Penn State travels to No. 4 Ohio State in a clash of titans.
Highlighted by the fact that Olympic champion Kyle Snyder will be on OSU’s side, both sides feature the top wrestlers in their respective weight classes. A combined 18 wrestlers are ranked amongst the two schools, and seven of the matches on the night will feature ranked vs. ranked opponents.
Some of the probable matchups for tonight’s contest include No. 1 Kyle Snyder (6-0) vs. No. 3 Nick Nevills (13-1), No. 4 Kollin Moore (20-2) vs. No. 9 Matt McCutcheon (12-2) and No. 10 Myles Martin (20-4) vs. No. 2 Bo Nickal (14-0).
On the season, Ohio State enters at 8-1 (4-1), while Penn State is undefeated at 10-0 (6-0). The Buckeyes lone loss of the season happened last Friday on the road against the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes.
If you’re in Columbus, it may be worth heading over the Schottenstein Center to see this top five battle. If you aren’t in Columbus, you can catch the match on TV at 6 p.m. ET on Big Ten Network.
Bill Connelly’s 2017 College Football Predictions
— SB Nation
It’s never too early to preview the 2017 college football season. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly took the time to break it all down for us using the S&P for preseason projections.
Right now, Connelly has Alabama sitting at the No. 1 spot and Ohio State right behind the Crimson Tide at No. 2. Defending national champions Clemson slide down to the No. 6 spot.
Like last season, the numbers predict the same four Big Ten teams (Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan) will be duking it out for conference supremacy.
If you want to see the complete rankings, you can click here.
Stick to Sports
• Columbus restaurant ends up on Yelp’s top 100 places to eat in the USA.
• Michigan man doesn’t like Punxsatawney Phil.
• President Trump puts new sanctions on Iran.
• The Dodd-Frank regulations get watered down by way of executive order.