Everything You Need To Know About Jarryd Hayne, Rugby Star Turned NFL Sensation

Jarryd Hayne
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The San Francisco 49ers have had a disastrous offseason and probably won’t be a factor this year in the NFC West. However, one of the lone bright spots of the 49ers camp has been the addition of rugby star Jarryd Hayne.

Hayne was considered a longshot to make the 49ers roster but, after an extremely impressive preseason, Hayne defied the odds and survived the final cuts to make the team.

Hayne has one of the NFL’s best stories, so let’s get to know the former rugby star a little more before heading into his first regular season NFL game next Sunday.

He Is The First Professional Rugby League Player To Play in the NFL

While there have been many players who have made football code switches and have gone to play in the NFL, those athletes came from Rugby Union (a different form of rugby than Rugby League) or Australian Rules Football.

When Hayne signed with the 49ers, he became the first Rugby League player to make the jump from that sport to American football.

He Was A Legitimate Rugby League Superstar

Hayne wasn’t just any random rugby player looking to make the jump to a different sport because he wasn’t good enough to keep playing the one he was in. In fact, Hayne was a two-time winner (2009 and 2014) of the Daily M Medal for the National Rugby League Player of the Year.

He also won the 2009 Rugby League International Federation’s International Player of the Year Award, and led Australia to a 2013 World Cup of Rugby championship while leading the entire tournament in try scoring.

He Turned Down The Richest Contract In National Rugby League History To Play In The NFL

Before coming to the 49ers, Hayne was in negotiations with his NRL team, the Parramatta Eels, to continue his rugby career. The Eels offered Hayne a $6.35 million contract extension, the richest in the history of the sport, and his contract would have taken up an astonishing 20 percent of the overall cap of the NRL.

Instead, Hayne turned it down, telling The Sydney Morning Herald:

“I think people need to realize I was about to become the highest paid player in the NRL, the highest paid player in the history of rugby league,” he said. “But, I’m a kid from Minto and my whole dream as a professional athlete was to …  to  … buy my mum a house. I did that and everything else has been a bonus.”

This Wasn’t The First Time He Tried Playing American Football

Back in 2011, a 23-year-old Hayne wanted to quit rugby to continue his dream of playing American college football. However, Hayne never finished Year 12 in Australian high school and that prevented him from pursuing his dream and signing on to an American college team. His only option at that point was to try and play in the NFL, despite having never played organized football before.

His Nickname is “The Hayne Plane” And He Has His Own Signature Celebration

Hayne picked up the nickname “Hayne Plane” for his signature celebration after a try in which he extends his arms out like, well, a plane.

It’s the same one “The Jet” Jason Terry uses in the NBA, and something tells me he might want to shelf it if the Niners play the New York Jets.

He Put Up Legitimate Numbers In The Preseason

Hayne probably won’t get too many carries in the 49ers backfield and will be used primarily as a return man, but he proved that he was capable of being productive at the position in the preseason.

Hayne was the second leading rusher in the NFL preseason behind the Lions’ Zach Zenner. He rushed for 175 yards on 25 carries, good enough for seven yards a carry. On punt returns, Hayne put up a total of 163 yards on ten returns which was good enough for third in the preseason.

Hayne might have secured his spot with his impressive Week 2 preseason performance against the Cowboys, where he rushed for 54 yards on eight carries, and racked up 84 total punt return yards.

His speed and elusiveness in the open field stemming from his Rugby League career makes him tough to bring down, and at 6’2″, 220 lbs., Hayne is a tank with the ability to break weak tackles and continue forward.

He Can Absolutely Truck Defenders

In case you forgot, rugby players are kinda tough. Hayne proved that in the Niners preseason game against the Chargers when he absolutely laid out Chargers DB Lowell Rose as Rose tried to tackle him on a carry.

If nothing else, Hayne already made a viral name for himself with that hit, and he might make special teamers think twice about getting in front of him on a return this season.

At this point, who knows what Hayne’s NFL career will end up looking like. It’s possible he rarely sees the field and ends up back in the NRL next year. Or perhaps Hayne’s talent is enough for him to be a legitimate NFL running back and/or return man and he takes on a bigger role than expected with the 49ers.

Regardless, Hayne’s story is already one of the best in the NFL this year, and he’s worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.