Jarryd Hayne has officially signed with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers on March 3 after also receiving interest from the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions.
Jarryd Hayne is regarded as one of the greatest, if not absolutely best, rugby players of all time in Australian Rugby League history. Hayne, the 6-foot-2, 226-pound player is a legend in Australia. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash in December, passed up what was about to become the biggest contract in National Rugby League history for an opportunity to play in the NFL.
"I was about to become the highest-paid player in the NRL," Hayne told the Daily Telegraph. “But, I’m a kid from Minto and my whole dream as a professional athlete was to buy my mum a house. I did that. Everything else has been a bonus.”
Hayne passed up a five-year extension worth $6.75 million because he feels that the NRL simply wasn’t “challenging me any more.”
“I feel like I’ve done everything in the game. What more is there to achieve other than a premiership? In life, you have to enjoy the journey and, for me, the journey of having a crack at the NFL is far greater than anything here.”
“You have to follow your heart. If people are upset about that, if they want to criticize me, that’s their problem, not mine.’’
Hayne has received essentially every individual honor in rugby there is to win:
- 2014 Daily M Player of the Year
- 2014 Daily M Representative Player of the Year
- 2014 Daily M Fullback of the Year
- 2014 Top Tryscorer of the Year
- 2009 Rugby League International Federation’s International Player of the Year, given to the best player in the world.
Is he going to adjust to life in the NFL? Hayne has acknowledged and knows nothing will be given to him but he does have the support of millions of rugby fans worldwide who know the tremendous gifts he has.
Gareth Holmes, NRL elite programs manager who has known Hayne since he was 13, spoke with 49ers.com by phone to discuss Hayne and his transition to the NFL.
“I like to think he’ll do really well. Obviously he’s putting himself in a position that’s foreign to him, but I know that he’s very driven and very motivated. From what I know, he’s a student of the game, and he picks things up very quickly,” said Holmes.
“Athletically, I don’t think he’ll have any issues. He’s a true athlete. He’s strong, fast and very agile. I think it’s just the picking up the intricacies of the game. That’ll be his biggest challenge, but I have no doubt that he can do it.”
When asked about his reaction to the decision, Holmes expressed his shock and compared Hayne to another somewhat notable athlete.
“It was a lot of shock because he’s a superstar in our game. He’s won player of the year a couple times, including last year, so he was really at the top of his game. He’s obviously one of the most recognizable sportsmen in Australia. In rugby league terms, he was the LeBron James.”
Hayne is only guaranteed $100,000 in his new deal but is more interested in chasing his dream. Hayne will compete for a spot as a return man and running back. Frank Gore may be nearing the end of his run in San Francisco, but Hayne will also compete with Carlos Hyde and Alfonso Smith in the Niners backfield.
"This is a huge risk," Hayne said. "I'm taking a massive leap of faith."
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