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September 12, 2014

New England Patriots sign Eben Etzebeth?

The value of the left tackle or “blindside” blocker was thrust into the spotlight thanks to the Hollywood blockbuster aptly named ‘The Blindside’, starring Sandra Bullock. The movie follows the life of Ole Miss Graduate, Michael Oher, who overcomes extreme hardship and poverty to become the Baltimore Ravens left tackle. A typical NFL roster consists of 53 players, yet anyone who plays, coaches or watches the sport knows that one position is paramount above all others, the Quarterback. The entire opposing defense, with its own set of coaches, strategies and formations are solely dedicated to his demise. “Kill the Quarterback”, is the name of the game. Thus the importance of a team’s left tackle. He is the quarterback’s eyes in the back of his head, his insurance policy and without a doubt one of the most pivotal positions in any NFL team. The quarterback may get the glory, the GQ covers and the pretty girls, but he knows without his bodyguard watching his blind spot he’s not making it through a game, let alone a season.

Tom Brady is the poster child for American sport. He’s had an incredibly successful career with 3 super bowl rings to his name and is married to the world’s most recognized model in Giselle Bunchen. The future Hall-of-Famer hasn’t changed his method for dominating defenses over his 14-year career. He is the prototypical pocket passer relying on his vision, arm strength and ‘touch’ to deliver passes to receivers from within the pocket. This requires excellent protection upfront. The man charged with guarding his blindside these days is young Nate Solder. At 6’8 and 145kgs Solder wins with his length and athleticism, using his incredible wingspan to reach defenders trying to go around him. His rookie contract is coming to an end and all within the organization know this man is going to get paid, and paid well. Why? Because without him their future Hall of fame quarterback simply could not to what he does!

6’8 and 145kgs seems ludicrous. Was this man created in an NFL lab? Is there any other athlete that comes close matching these physical features? Cue our very own Eben Etzebeth. At 6’8 and 125kgs, Eben takes what Nate Solder has: tweaks it, trims it, and produces something out of the Gladiatorial times. He has quickly established himself as a major force in world rugby. For a young man he plays with a physicality and intensity that goes well beyond his 23 years of age. Quite simply put, the man is a beast on the rugby field and provides the South African pack with an enforcer much needed in test rugby. His rise to stardom was rapid and is a testament to the fortitude and work ethic of the young man. Nothing along the way has seemed to overawe him. Whether for UCT, Western Province, The Stormers or the Springboks he has seamlessly stamped his mark at all levels of rugby and will no doubt be the centrepiece for the Springbok pack for years to come.

Eztebeth’s strongest traits seem to perfectly translate to the position of left tackle. Firstly, he has incredibly long levers and freakish upper body strength perfect for blocking or pushing away would-be defenders. He also plays with an aggressive streak that few can rival and his no-nonsense attitude fits the role of quarterback bodyguard down to that last inch of grass. Finally, he has superb athleticism for a man of his size which will enable him to get downfield to make blocks or cover screens. I can think of few men in world rugby that a “pretty boy” like Tom Brady would like more than Eben Eztebeth to have his back. He would be an absolute brute at left tackle and I am sure would do almost anything in his power to ensure his Quarterback remains upright and unscathed.  A hero on any NFL roster.

For more on the NFL check out The End Zone

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