After years of domination in the Australian National Rugby League (NRL), rugby superstar Jarryd Hayne is heading to America to see if he can cut it in the NFL. Hayne made the announcement today, and is already listed as an NFL free agent.
"I believe I have the speed, I'm a quick learner, I feel things out really quickly," he said in a press conference. "I have no doubt it's going to be tough. Ultimately it's a 12-month plan, going over there and trying to make a train-on team. For me to do that I need to start preparing for that around January or February."
By making the decision, Hayne is walking away from one of the most lucrative contracts in the NRL. NRL owners tried to open up their checkbooks in hopes of convincing Hayne to stay, but he told them not to waste their time.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL, and at my age, this is my one and only chance at having a crack at playing there," he says. “I'm excited about the potential opportunities that lie ahead. I've known the deadline has been looming for me to make this call, and I believe the right time is now."
Hayne repeatedly said his decision is about pursuing a lifelong dream, and called the challenge of playing in the NFL “far greater” than anything in Australia.
Can Hayne cut it in the NFL? That’s a good question. At 6’3, 220 pounds, he’s got the size. It’s safe to assume he’ll pack on more weight as he shifts from the endurance training required for rugby to the short, explosive training done by NFL players. His acceleration and top speed for his weight are already NFL quality. A recent video by the Sydney Morning Herald compared two runs -- one from Hayne, and one from Reggie Bush. Both players burst down the field at full speed during the runs, and get this: Hayne’s top speed was only marginally less than Bush’s. Bush reached a speed of 9.8 meters per second, while Hayne reached 9.6 meters per second. Not bad – especially for someone weighing 220 pounds.
Here’s what Bush had to say about Hayne upon watching his highlight tape.
"He actually looks like an NFL running back. Looks like he could come play with us tomorrow," Bush said. "He's fast, strong and ... wow! Look at that hit. That's an NFL football hit. I like this guy."
We’ll find out soon if scouts and general managers feel the same way. Hayne says he believes his best chance to catch on with a team early on is as a kick and punt returner.
Check out this highlight reel to see Hayne in action: