Q: When did you start thinking about making the decision to start training with the Team USA Rugby squad?
NE: From my background obviously, rugby's always been a part of my life since even I was six years old - I probably picked up a ball and started playing and watching my dad play so it's always been a part of my life. I grew up with rugby like [how] most kids probably grew up with football, or basketball, or baseball. For me, it's always been around. There's a big part of rugby in my life, at a young age especially, with the USA and traveling for the Junior World Cups and things of that nature. As I transitioned to football you don't forget about those things and that was a big part of my life. As I was playing football I've always kept in contact with the friends that I've made, and I've watched friends as they've grown and had more success playing rugby, so it's something I've always watched and kept close attention to even though I've been kind of been doing other things obviously. With rugby coming into the Olympics in 2016 obviously this year-especially with the background I have-how can you not think about or have any desire towards wanting to do that especially if it was your first passion. That's kind of what led me there.
Q: Did Team USA reach out to you or did you reach out them?
NE: I've been in contact with USA Rugby like I said for a while. I've known some of these coaches since I was 15, 16 years old. I've always been in touch. I had my conversations with people as I would go to the Las Vegas Sevens Tournaments and watch the World Series circuit there and talk to [people] as I watched other games everywhere else. I've always wanted to play. Obviously, I'm playing with the Patriots but just through expressing that and seeing the opportunity that they have available to me, we just talked it out and now I'm here. I don't know the specifics in that but I think it worked itself out.
Q: How did you go about making this request in front of Coach Bill Belichick?
NE: Obviously, I had private conversations with a lot of coaches and people with the Patriots. I'm going to keep those private conversations private, but really at the end of the day I think Bill understands rugby's a passion of mine and that's where my background lies. I expressed my desire to chase the Olympic dream in the sport that I love and grew up playing. At the end of the day I have the opportunity and I'm looking forward to working really hard to see if I can make that come true.
Q: Was there any trepidation at all in having to ask Coach Belichick for time off?
NE: Yeah, of course. I'm going to miss a few things that I don't want to but at the end of the day it's a really big opportunity for me. When it comes to my personal life it's something that I don't want to regret not trying to do, and I don't know that if I didn't try it that it wouldn't have been something that I would've strongly regretted. At the end of the day I'm kind of living with no regrets and it's something that was important to me and that's really all that it took to think about for me to kind of make that decision.
Q: During your brief time as a free agent recently did you put any thought into putting football off for a little while?
NE: I didn't have any set plan of how things would go before it happened. I really just felt I had this opportunity that I had in front of me to play rugby and something that I wanted to pursue and I really kind of took it from there. I'm just thankful that between me and the Patriots organization that they've allowed me to do it. I'm truly blessed and lucky for the opportunity.
Q: How much do you think not being around might affect you football-wise in 2016? Also, how has rugby helped you play football?
NE: On part one, I've never not been around, so I don't really have the answer to that question. But as far as rugby goes, it's a very, very fast-paced, aerobic sport. Tackling, getting up, it's very aerobic in that sense. It also has the hitting part as well. I think it will help me with everything I do from the standpoint of tackling, conditioning, all types of things that I think if you ask a lot of players in other sports that it would help do things in your sport. There's always good things you can take from your sport to help you cross over into another sport.
Q: I was wondering if I could get your reaction on the Chandler Jones news today and have you talked to him at all?
NE: I haven't. With everything going on here on my end, I really haven't even gotten a chance to look into that, or hear about it or talk with him, but I'll say that I wish him the best of luck and he's a great, great dude.
Q: The passion of people that play rugby might be up there with any other sport. What is it about this sport that has a lot of people thinking like you do?
NE: I don't know, I grew up on it. Rugby's been in my veins since I was a little kid. Even not playing the past couple years, it's still hard not to want to play when I watch old teammates and guys having success and having fun. It's just a fun, open and fast-paced game. It's really unlike anything else when you add the hitting aspect to it. It's just a ton of fun, I mean, you'd have to play.
Q: Are you guaranteed a spot on the roster with Team USA for the Olympics or is there a tryout involved? Where will you be doing your training as you get ready on your own?
NE: To answer your question, I am absolutely not guaranteed a spot. I have to try out for the team like anybody else. I will be training, right now there's the Olympic training facility in Chula Vista and that's kind of where they're stationed at and that's where, for now, my training will take place. Whatever they have me partake in going forward, whether it be part of the rest of the HSBC World Series, if I have to do that at some point, or in camps. Eventually down the line, they'll narrow the team, not sure about the numbers, but I have to earn a spot like anybody else. We'll see how that goes. I'm lucky to even have the opportunity to go to trial.
Q: How much of the Olympics do you watch? What might it be like to be a part of the Olympics with the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies and competing for a gold medal? How much of that plays a part in trying to be part of something unique like that?
NE: I grew up watching the Olympics my entire life. When I think of the Olympics, I think of tradition honestly, that's the word that comes to mind. Growing up playing rugby, you do't have the opportunity to play in the Olympics. The best thing you could get to really was the World Cup because rugby wasn't in the Olympics. So, to see now that it is back in the Olympics in the form of Sevens in Rio in 2016 and to be a part of something I watched growing up and that has as much tradition as the Olympics and the time and effort put in to perfect your craft for something that comes around once in a lifetime for some people. The idea to potentially be a part of something like that is humbling and it would be amazing.
Q: Pro football is the most popular sport in the country but there's no forum where you can play for your country. What would that mean to play for your country?
NE: Like I said, to not only play for my country but to represent them in the Olympics at the highest level, that's something I can't put into words. What a unique opportunity and it would just be unlike something I've ever experienced. I don't even really have words for that, it would just be such an amazing opportunity as I could imagine, such a humbling experience that I would never forget for the rest of my life.