Nate Ebner
Ohio Life

Nate Ebner on the Importance of Family in His Sports Career

The Dublin native, Ohio State standout and NFL veteran’s new book shares how his father shaped his personal journey through athletics and life.

Whenever NFL veteran Nate Ebner’s athletic career concludes, he’ll eventually head home.

“I love Ohio,” says the former Ohio State football special teams ace. Ebner, a child of divorce, grew up with a loving, dedicated father who instilled his love of exercise and rugby. A key part of that relationship: the  patchwork weight room that resided behind the detached garage at his dad’s house in Springfield.

Jeff Ebner never saw his son’s Super Bowl victories with the New England Patriots or watched him play rugby for the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics. He was killed in 2008 at his junkyard when a disgruntled customer struck him over the head with a piece of pipe.

Ebner’s stirring memoir, Finish Strong: A Father’s Code and a Son’s Path, will be published May 11. Written with Cincinnati Enquirer sports columnist Paul Daugherty, the book memorably portrays a professional athlete’s maturation. Ebner, now with the New York Giants, was training for another Olympic run when he discussed his dad’s influence, why his children can play football and his love of the weight room.

Is there one thing you wish your father had taught you? 
By the time he had passed, I had learned the main things I needed to learn from him: how to live life, work ethic, how to be a parent. He showed me the way just through his actions, but at the same time, he let me be my own person. That’s what I loved so much about him. He pushed me hard, but it wasn’t “you need to be this way.” 

You and your wife want to have kids. Will you let them play football? 
Absolutely. To the core of my heart, I believe that rugby has taught me how to protect myself and to tackle with proper form and to do things to keep my head out of contact because you don’t have a helmet. And because of that, I truly believe that’s what has helped me protect my head. With a kid, I can teach them everything I know about how to protect themselves. 

The weight room connected you to your father, then served as salvation when he died. What does it mean to you now? 
The weight room is everything to me because [my dad and I] bonded in moments that we felt so similarly about. It was a great place of growth for me. We spent so much time there. We were holding each other accountable in our work ethic. The weight room was everything. When I go back there, I just know all the moments — the talks, the conversation — we had in there. It was one of those things that brought me closest to him when he wasn’t there. Even to this day, there’s no place like in a weight room that I feel closer to him. It will always be like that. 

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