The emotion of watching her son, Nate Ebner, play in Super Bowl XLIX was something Nancy Pritchett admits wasn't always the easiest thing to handle.

The emotion of watching her son, Nate Ebner, play in Super Bowl XLIX was something Nancy Pritchett admits wasn't always the easiest thing to handle.

The 26-year-old Ebner got to visit with his mother and 16 other family members in Arizona in the days leading up to the Super Bowl before helping the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 on Feb. 1.

"It was a lot of fun, but I had my head in my lap, in all honesty," Pritchett said. "But it was awesome, exciting, all of the adjectives rolled up into one."

For Ebner, the feeling of being a Super Bowl champion still was sinking in five days later as he traveled back to his hometown.

Moments before the Hilliard Davidson High School boys basketball team was to play its home game Feb. 6, Ebner was given a plaque by his alma mater that charted his accomplishments over the past seven-plus years and also included the phrase "Finish Strong."

Ebner, a 2007 Davidson graduate, was the only player originally from central Ohio to play in the latest Super Bowl.

"I feel so blessed to have been raised in a community like this," he told the crowd at Davidson while standing at half court. "I'm very lucky and have nothing but love for all of you."

The route Ebner took to becoming a Super Bowl champion was an unconventional one.

Because of the influence of his father, Jeff Ebner, who died in 2008, Ebner began playing rugby at age 12.

He developed into one of the nation's best in his age group, and because of his commitment to rugby, he never played football at Davidson.

He went on to play rugby at Ohio State and joined the football program as a walk-on in 2009, eventually earning a scholarship as a special teams player.

As a senior in 2011, he earned the Ike Kelley Award as Ohio State's outstanding special teams player and the Bo Rein Award as the team's most inspirational player.

The 6-foot, 205-pounder wound up getting selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft despite getting just three snaps in two seasons at defensive back for the Buckeyes.

"His development has really been outstanding," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the Boston Globe during the 2014 season. "I would probably put him in the, not the all-time top, but maybe in the top-five percent all time of players that I've coached, from where they were in college to how they grew in the NFL."

Ebner, who has 22 total tackles, 12 assisted tackles and two fumble recoveries in three seasons with the Patriots, played in 71 percent of the special teams plays during the Super Bowl, according to the NFL's official box score.

"It's not even a week in so I'm still trying to get a grasp on it, but it's amazing," he said. "I'll catch myself driving down the road thinking about it and I'll just start smiling. You just work so hard all year and it's just a testament to hard work paying off."

Ebner, who works out at Ohio State in the offseason, believes the 12-hour drive back to Hilliard was worth it for what Davidson dubbed "Nate Ebner Night."

"I wanted to be here, and it's a great honor to be here," he said. "I agree that my story is unique and not typical, and I had a lot of people lead me in the right direction over the years."

Davidson athletics director Nate Bobek said Ebner is an inspiration to students and the community.

"Anytime you get to see someone from your (school) district on a national stage like the Super Bowl, it's fantastic," Bobek said. "He's a special teams guru on the field. He had a commitment (Feb. 5), but he came 12 hours to get here from Boston.

"A lot of people are aware of what Nate is doing, but we want to highlight the stars like Nate that are positive and accentuate the positive. He's no stranger to Hilliard Davidson. You see him around when he's home. He's a Wildcat through and through."