SAN DIEGO—Big, strong, fast, and nasty 27-year-old Jarryd Hayne looks every bit the part of an NFL athlete.
Born in Australia, far removed from the helmets, shoulder pads, and Budweiser ads that define American football, Hayne took his considerable athletic talents to the rugby pitch, a place where he has dominated Southern Hemisphere competition.
Now, Hayne is taking his talents up North, showcasing his skills to NFL scouts in the hopes that he can successfully make the leap from NRL (National Rugby League) to the NFL.
Hayne, who has twice been named the NRL player of the year, is known in rugby circles for his explosive running style, one he showcased in the 2008 rugby World Cup while representing the Fijian national team.
At 6 foot and 2 inches tall, 226 pounds, Hayne ran a 4.5 second 49-yard dash at a workout in San Diego, one attended by representatives of a number of different teams. Hayne’s time, impressive for his size alone, would have placed him amongst the faster running backs at this year’s NFL combine.
As in any sport, there’s more to success than being an athletic specimen. Several rugby players before Hayne have tried their luck in the NFL, including USA rugby 7s star Carlin Isles, who ran a jaw-dropping 4.22 40-yard dash during a tryout for the Detroit Lions.
Isles, who went on to sign a futures contract with the team, didn’t remain on the Lions roster for long, returning to rugby to compete in this year’s rugby 7s World Series.
The Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers are among the teams considered to be in the running for this experimental prospect. If Hayne successfully makes the transition from rugby to football, he is expected to serve primarily as a kick returner and running back.