BOSTON (CBS) — After an ACL injury limited him to just nine games last season, Nate Ebner was back to being a linchpin in the New England special teams unit in 2018.

The team recognized Ebner’s road back on Thursday, naming him the team’s winner of the 2018 Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is given annually to the player who “best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration.”

Ebner led the Patriots with 13 special teams tackles in 2018, giving him at least 10 special teams tackles in six of his seven NFL seasons. The lone exception was last season when he missed half the year due to injury.

Ebner did not play football in high school, but that didn’t stop Bill Belichick from drafting him with a sixth-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2012. Ebner was a world-class rugby player and ended up walking onto the Ohio State football program, finishing his career as a scholarship player. He never forgot his rugby roots, and in 2016, Ebner became the seventh player in NFL history to participate in the Olympics after being selected to the US Olympic rugby squad.

He was pretty good at football in 2016, too, earning Associated Press second-team All-Pro honors for special teams after leading the Patriots with 19 special teams tackles (tied for the most special teams tackles in the NFL).

Recent New England Patriots Ed Block Courage Award recipients include Matthew Slater (2017), Nate Solder (2016), Jerod Mayo (2015), Rob Gronkowski (2014), Sebastian Vollmer (2013), Logan Mankins (2012), Marcus Cannon (2011), Wes Welker (2010) and Tom Brady (2009).

The Ed Block Courage Award is named after Ed Block, a long-time head athletic trainer for the Baltimore Colts and a respected humanitarian dedicated to helping children. Recipients are often players who have overcome devastating injuries or tragedies in their personal lives to return to top-level competition in the NFL.

Ebner and the winners from the other 31 NFL teams will be recognized at the Ed Block Courage Awards banquet on March 23, 2019 in Baltimore.

 

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