NEW YORK, NY – With all of this talk about San Francisco 49ers newly acquired defensive tackle Lawrence Okoye, it’s easy to forget about last year’s rugby to football sensations; New York Jets tight end Hayden Smith and New England Patriots special teamer Nate Ebner. With that, this week’s post will update Smith’s progression and next week we will feature Ebner.
Hayden Smith, the former Team USA Rugby Eagles and Saracens star, joined the New York Jets one year ago as a prospective tight end with extremely raw talent. Luckily for Smith, he had veteran tight end Dustin Keller to help him along in his progress. As the team opened training camp, Smith seemed to be a long-shot to make the 53-man roster… and he didn’t. As the rounds of pre-season cuts progressed, Smith made it to the last preseason game before he received his pink slip.
However, Smith cleared waivers, allowing the Jets to sign him to their practice squad. This gave the former rugby star and opportunity to better refine his craft and learn the game more.
“It was, I guess, quite a big transition to make, probably mentally more than physically. I had a lot to contend with in really learning the sport and its intricacies, learning the different techniques and coming to terms with exactly what was required,” said Smith. “Slowly but surely, I became more comfortable as the season progressed.”
By the Jets’ October 28 game against the Miami Dolphins, Smith had made the team’s 53-man roster and found himself reaching the field. Smith got in on four plays against the Dolphins, and a total of 32 for the year, with one reception for 16 yards.
With Dustin Keller now gone, there is a window of opportunity for Hayden Smith to really make a name for himself not only on this Jets roster, but in the NFL as well. Not to mention the Jets have a much better outlook at the quarterback position with Geno Smith now on their roster. Without Smith the Jets were left with Mark Sanchez, who Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith wouldn’t let “…throw me a paper bag sandwich.”
Lucky for both Hayden Smith and the New York Jets, their new Smith can actually throw the ball.