The list of players to earn three Super Bowl championships and play Olympic rugby for the United States is … well, we're pretty sure it's one person long.
That person just happens to be from central Ohio in Nate Ebner, which is one reason why the New England Patriots standout was chosen to speak to Blue Jackets prospects Thursday as part of the franchise's annual development camp.
But Ebner's story is so much more than that. Not only did Ebner make it to the top of the professional football heap, he didn't even play a second of high school football. Not only did Ebner overcome the odds to qualify for the Olympics, he had to tell Bill Belichick he was putting his pro football career in jeopardy. And not only has Ebner accomplished everything he has, the former Ohio State football player has done it all after the murder of his father when he was 19 years old.
DEVELOPMENT CAMP: Follow along with the Blue Jackets prospects
It's a story in which perseverance, dedication and sacrifice are the lessons to be learned, as well as not letting outside forces stop you when you put your mind to something. That's what Ebner told the more than 30 Blue Jackets prospects when he completed his 20-minute talk during the team's lunch at Nationwide Arena.
"At this moment, you guys are at a critical stage," Ebner told the young hockey players. "Turn it on and just fully commit everything you have, and it'll be worth it, I promise you. Do that day in, day out, week after week, month after month, year after year, and you'll find yourself having a nice career."
Ebner's story starts as many do, a young son following in his father's footsteps. Jeff Ebner was a rugby standout growing up and continued playing the sport in his adult years, so Nate took it up as well, qualifying for U.S. junior teams and taking part in international competition.
Eventually, he was an Ohio State student without an outlet, as going from playing against some of the best in the world to suiting up in club rugby left his competitive itch in need of a scratch. One day in 2008, Nate went to his father and said he wanted to walk on to the Ohio State football team. His dad's response? Do it if you think you can make the NFL, otherwise why walk away from the sport he loved most?
Days later, Jeff went to work at the family-owned junkyard in Springfield and wouldn't return home. A robbery went bad, and Jeff suffered severe injuries in an assault before passing away at age 53.
Nate ended up dropping out of Ohio State and wasn't sure where his life would go. Then, his mom stepped in.
"I'll never forget my mom coming up the stairs, tears in her eyes," Nate told the Blue Jackets prospects. "She said, 'Hey, if your dad saw you like this, it would crush him. He wouldn't want you to live like that. He would want you to make something special of your life. He wouldn't want you to lose your life because he's gone.'
"I made a conscious decision in that moment that I wasn't playing around anymore. I was going to make it happen. The last conversation I had with my dad, I told I was going to walk on to the football team and I was going to make the NFL."
Long story short, he did. Ebner dedicated himself to walking on to Ohio State's football team and made the team. Come the first game of the 2009 season, he was on the field as part of the kickoff coverage team, earning his spot over scholarship players in a nearly unprecedented accomplishment in modern years.
He would become a special teams dynamo for Ohio State, playing in every game over his three seasons of eligibility. Ebner went to take part in the team's workouts ahead of the NFL draft that year and, despite playing just three plays on defense his entire career, was drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patriots.
All he's done since is play for the Patriots for the past seven seasons and win three Super Bowl rings, each of which he brought to Nationwide Arena on Thursday to show the youngsters. In the midst of that, he's rehabbed from a serious knee injury and also spent the spring and summer of 2016 training to play in the Olympics, where he joined the Team USA rugby squad that competed in Rio de Janeiro in another instance of needing to sacrifice just about everything he had to make it to the highest level.
It's a story about how dreams are made and dreams are achieved. For the Blue Jackets prospects in attendance, it's a look at how focus and determination can play a big part the success of their careers.
"I hope maybe you guys got something from my story in your personal life that you can apply to your own career," Ebner told the prospects. "All that matters is you can control your destiny all the way. At the end of the day, if you want this for yourself, sacrifice everything."