While the NFL is in the middle of its offseason, another professional sports league recently kicked off its third ever season: Major League Rugby, which underwent an expansion this year and now also has a team in the Boston area. The New England Free Jacks, who play their games in Weymouth, are 1-1 two games into their inaugural season — a solid start for the newly formed team that should make two pro football players quite happy.
After all, New England Patriots defensive backs Patrick Chung and Nate Ebner are both minority owners of the new club as first reported by NESN’s Zack Cox. According to the report, which quotes Free Jacks CEO Alex Magleby, Chung and Ebner first started working with the franchise shortly after its inception in September 2018. Their involvement with New England’s pro rugby team remained private until this week, however.
“I think the number one thing is they both really understand performance sport, and that’s what we’re in,” Magleby told Cox. “We’ve created a model where we have a lot of professionals from overseas, and there are also locals. [Ebner and Chung] are at the forefront of performance sport in the United States, and they have been for a long time. And of course, Nate’s experience in rugby to augment that is really important.”
Ebner’s late father brought him to rugby, and he went on to play the sport through high school and early on in college before walking on to join Ohio State’s football team. His love for the game remained strong even after moving to the NFL, however, and in 2016 Ebner — just a few days after signing a contract extension in New England — successfully tried out for the rugby sevens team that would represent the United States at the Summer Olympics.
Now, the 31-year-old holds a minority ownership stake in a professional rugby team alongside a teammate of his who has no history with the sport. Nevertheless, Magleby feels good about having the two football players on board as investors in the upstart franchise: “You have two folks who really understand the sports side of this whole thing. But beyond that, they’re both really intelligent, smart, and they’re good investors.”
“They’re wise with where they put their money, and they’re involved because they’re good investors, and I think that’s a really important piece,” the Free Jacks’ CEO and former former U.S. national team player continued. “They are committed to performance sport, they see the entertainment value of sport and what it can do for communities, and they’re both highly active in their communities — and just overall really good guys.”
What the future holds for their investment remains to be seen, something that can also be said about their tenures with the Patriots: Chung will be 33 when the new NFL season begins in September and is naturally closer to the end of his career than its beginning, while Ebner is scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency next month.