Through two preseason games, the most exciting player on the San Francisco 49ers is a 27-year-old Australian who had never played an organised game of American football before training camp.
In an off-season marked by early retirements, arrests, and key departures, the Niners may finally have something to be excited about in the form of Jarryd Hayne, a two-time Australian Rugby League player of the year and the 2009 Rugby League International Federation’s International Player of the Year.
Hayne signed a three-year contract with San Francisco with only $US100,000 in guaranteed money in March.
As the New York Times noted, Hayne took a major pay cut from what he was making as one of the best rugby players in the world in order to pursue a long-time dream of playing in the NFL.
Hayne had wanted to play college football in the US, but because he hadn’t finished high school in Australia he was ineligible under NCAA rules.
Then, in 2011 he was linked to the Detroit Lions but never made the jump.
Entering the Niners’ first preseason game against the Houston Texans, Hayne was a long-shot to even make the final roster. Then, he electrified an otherwise uneventful preseason game, tallying 120 total yards between returns and some snaps at running back. On his second touch of the ball, in his first-ever game of football, Hayne returned a punt for 53 yards.
On Saturday, Hayne did it again.
He made a crazy over-the-head catch on his first return of the day, and then showed off his speed and athleticism on the return.
He made a Dallas defender look silly on his next return.
And looked dangerous as a running back on this draw. Look at that stiff-arm!
Of course, these are meaningless preseason games and Hayne has mostly been playing against back-ups and guys who may not even make teams’ final rosters. But the Niners could use something to be excited about, so keep an ear out for Hayne. And if you don’t believe he’s cut out for the NFL, check out his rugby highlights below.
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