NEW YORK, NY – With a smaller, more-persistent-than-the-fluffy snowflakes falling outside the MTM Studio windows right now, we couldn’t help but think how these feathery ice crystals are metaphorically representative of two NFL players with less-than-fluffy backgrounds are now on the NFL All-Pro radar: Sports Improbables, Nate Ebner and Khalil Mack.
Full disclosure, we’re a tad partial to these two guys for different reasons. Ebner, the New England Patriots Special Teams nut and defensive back has rugby in his blood, and we’ve met him a number of times. Mack, meanwhile, is a SUNY at Buffalo product, just like the late Big Al Sternberg and yours truly, Short Matt.
So… What’s the big deal about these guys, other than the fact we know/stalk them?
Nate Ebner: His pop played rugby with some of our buddies, including Scott Lefkowitz, who broke this news to us this morning as we were scrambling to fill in for MIA MTM correspondent Sunshine Du Jour. Because of that, he played rugby as a kid. He then made Ohio State’s football team as a walk-on, while there playing rugby. Tragically, his Dad was murdered in a botched robbery at his business in Ohio, and Nate has been a man on a mission since. His improbable story includes making that Buckeyes’ squad, getting drafted by the Patriots and sticking with them to get a Super Bowl ring and, more importantly, a NFL pension – which is brutally difficult to achieve for too many players… Even more improbable, the Patriots let him take the summer off to play rugby for Team USA in the Rio Olympics. Yet making that team, after not having played rugby since college, was even more improbable… Oh, and now he’s been voted a NFL 2nd Team All-Pro Special Teamer…
While that’s all tough to follow in the Improbable Department, Mr. Mack has one huge ace in the hole: he went to the State University of New York at Buffalo, not exactly a place that produces high-hanging NFL fruit. Just ask “Manhandler“ Gerry Philbin. This guy is a monster and a big reason for good things finally taking place in Oakland. In fact, he made history last year by becoming the first player in NFL history to be named first-team All-Pro at two positions, defensive end and outside linebacker… in the same season. That’s not punter and placekicker! But you have to really think about this for a minute to understand how improbable this meteoric rise to NFL 1st Team All-Pro for Khalil is… Folks, there are maybe TWO NFL-caliber players in Buffalo and they play for the Bills, not our beloved UB Bulls… You hear us, DJ Eberle?!
And there you have it. Nate Ebner and Khalil Mack are two Sports Improbables that earned what they have the hard way; making smaller and persistent snowflakes everywhere proud…
Feel free to weigh in below and come back for the inimitable Cheesy Bruin, who comments on his fellow pundits’ columns as often as Mariah Carey nails it in on NYE! [Ahem]… And please follow us on Twitter @MeetTheMatts, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.