Former rugby league star continues to make NFL strides
Jarryd Hayne certainly had no intention of inducing a collective laugh when it came to his thoughts on the fair catch in football.
“You stick your hand in the air and they can’t touch you,” he said, straight-faced.
The former Australian rugby league star is coolly making his way through an impressive first training camp with the San Francisco 49ers, showing that just maybe he can prove everybody wrong and earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
With a little unintentional humor mixed in to boot.
The 27-year-old rookie is saying all the right things, too: He’s far from polished, is still learning every day and wants to improve each week. No bold predictions about his standing, either.
Hayne’s next chance in a game situation Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys will be another opportunity to build off quite a preseason debut last weekend at Houston. He had a 53-yard run early in the second quarter of a 23-10 loss Saturday night to the Texans and five carries for 63 yards in all. In addition, there was his 33-yard kickoff return and a pair of punt returns totaling 24 yards.
“I felt comfortable out there, and I think it showed,” Hayne said Thursday. “I was always confident. For me, I didn’t need a play to have that confidence. It’s one of those things, with good or bad, I knew that I always was going to have to work on something.”
Hayne has never doubted he could make the daunting switch from rugby league to American football, even though he just pulled pads on for the first time earlier this month to take his first training camp hit.
While Hayne knows he might have to fair catch at some point, he trusts his instincts and ability to catch the ball and get away.
“I had opportunities to do it, but I backed my ability,” he said. “I felt comfortable being able to catch the ball and get out of the way.”
49ers special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr. loves that “fearless” nature. He and coach Jim Tomsula saw glimpses of that in watching hours of rugby league footage to scout Hayne.
“We’ve got to find out what we have and if we take a knee we’ll never find out,” McGaughey said of Hayne’s returns. “You obviously want to make smart decisions, but Jarryd is fearless. That’s one of the characteristics that it takes to be a great punt returner. It’s fun when you see a guy that can make that first guy miss and he’s not scared because he’s very, very comfortable fielding the ball and when you have that fearlessness it definitely gives you an edge on your opponent.”