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In the past, news about rugby in the United States resembled a patient pet waiting for a small crumb to be thrown after others gorged themselves on a big media meal.
But today, rugby gained a seat at the main table when the announcement came from USA Rugby naming the players selected for the Men’s Olympic Sevens team.
And one name, and one name only, dominated the media today – Nate Ebner, the 27-year old Ohio State graduate.
The New England Patriot footballer led the headlines in The Guardian, USA Today, LA Times, NFL.com, CBS Sports, Boston Herald. Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.
The personable Ebner is mainstream news from his pro football experience in a way that sevens’ standouts Perry Baker, Carlin Isles, or others are not. Ebner transcends the rugby community (which knows him well), moving his fame into the Summer Games Olympic conversation.
And, fortunately for American rugby, he takes the sport with him, alerting the nation’s sports audience that the USA is sending two rugby squads to Rio this August. The USA Eagle Women, too, piggyback on Ebner’s celebrity.
Ebner can expect more media coverage – and interviews, also – in the leadup to the first day of Men's play on August 9th. That’s good news for generating increased awareness for rugby in Rio, and good news for the two Eagles’ squads.