RWU HQ – Things shook up in the rugby world earlier this week when NRL star Jarryd Hayne announced his switch from rugby to American football, and our own Jamie Loyd did a great job of breaking down the turn of events. The former rugby star is quitting the sport that made him famous with the chance of sticking with a franchise in the National Football League in 2015.
“I’m always telling people to chase their dreams and follow their hearts — if I don’t live by that I’m not being honest with myself,” Hayne said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m so passionate about the challenge that lies ahead for me, not only as an athlete but more so as a person. It’s the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life … but for me to grow as an athlete and a person I feel this is the right step to take.”
The two-time Dally M Medal award winner is one of the latest rugby stars to test out his luck in the NFL. Many fail when making the jump from rugby to the world’s biggest stage of football, but Hayne could be the exception.
The 26-year-old has already taken his first steps in the right direction by taking a tour of the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks’ training facility and speaking with Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush recently. Hayne actually met with Bush three months ago to teach him how to play rugby. Funny how times change.
The former Parramatta Eel envisions his role in the NFL as a punt and kick off returner, and after watching the first three minutes of his highlight film and understanding the game like I do, I believe Hayne can one day make an impact in the NFL as a return man. Even though Hayne’s 6-foot-2, 220 lb. build isn’t similar to many returners this day and age, the new dual-sport athlete has the agility, elusiveness and ball carrying ability to do the job successfully. And he has the confidence for the job too.
“(Devin) Hester and Hawk (I’m guessing former Seattle Seahawk Percy Harvin,) they’re the best two punt returners in the NFL,’’ Hayne said, according to Fox Sports. “But I’ve seen those guys and, in terms of my own ability, there’s nothing there I can’t do.
“I believe I can run as fast. I can step, turn, spin. That’s why I’m going, it’s part of the fire. I’m thinking if they’re the best two and I can be there abouts with them, surely I can make it.”
Comparing himself to Harvin and the greatest kick returner of all-time in Hester is a bit premature, but Hayne certainly has the raw ability to make it in the NFL as a returner. And one way to increase his odds of making an 53-man roster is to be open to playing other positions on special teams. Willing to play special teams makes it easier to stick on an NFL squad because that gives them a reason to activate you on game day. Many players evolve from a special teamer to a bigger role on the team – a la New England Patriot Nate Ebner.
And if kick returning doesn’t work out, I heard the former fullback can kick the ball pretty well too. Teams are always looking for good punters.
It will be interesting to watch Hayne’s NFL career unfold in the coming months.
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