NFL hopeful Jarryd Hayne launched his career with a bang in the San Francisco 49ers’ preseason match against the Houston Texans.
On just his second touch ever in a game, the former NRL star burst through the Texans defensive line for a 53-yard dash.
Finishing the first half with five carries and 63 yards, if Hayne was nervous in his first hit out, he didn’t show it. While Hayne is currently fighting for a place on the 49ers regular season 53-man roster, he certainly impressed the world with a cracking performance in his side’s 23-10 loss.
SAN Francisco 49ers reporter Cam Inman told of the reaction to Hayne’s first big run, as Australian reporters “shrieked with joy”.
“As Jarryd Hayne burst loose down field Saturday in his NFL debut, shrieks of joy erupted in the normally sedate press box, delighting the Australian reporters,” Inman wrote on mercurynews.com.
Hayne’s rush eventually lead to the 49ers’ first touchdown, drawing praise from the San Francisco bench as the Australian left the field.
“Hayne came within 13 yards of the end zone, and the 49ers quickly parlayed that highlight into their first touchdown,” Inman said.
“After Celek scored, Hayne came to the 49ers sideline and received kudos from happy teammates, including starting running back Carlos Hyde and defensive tackle Lawrence Okoye, the latter having taken up a football career two years earlier upon leaving his native London.”
The NFL tweeted Hayne’s impressive 53-yard run — a post which was retweeted over 2000 times.
US commentators covering the preseason game seemed pretty excited by the 27-year-old’s start.
“Look at Jarryd Hayne. Running over people,” Fox Sports US commentators said.
“Jarryd Hayne has just made massive headlines in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and on the Gold Coast, because believe it or not there are a ton of Australian media here tonight. And this is what they wanted to see.”
“You see Jarryd Hayne and what he can do in open space, all those years in rugby sifting through all those bodies (helps),”another member of the commentary team said.
“He’s got really good vision, really good balance. Nobody is going to take him down easily.”
San Francisco Chronicle writer Eric Branch wrote “the Aussie is awesome” in an article on SF Gate, entitled “A star is born?”.
ESPN staff writer Paul Gutierrez also jumped on the Hayne band-wagon, labelling him “a surprise player who looks amazing.”
“Jarryd Hayne, the Australian import who is trying to make the transition to an NFL player, stood out for the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener, excelling as a running back, punt returner and kick returner with the second-team units,” he wrote.
SAN Francisco coach Jim Tomsula seemed pretty impressed with the Aussie convert during a half-time interview with sideline reporters.
“Yes well here we go, he’s going, this was our first look at him in live action and we’re excited by him,” he said.
The 49ers were loving Hayne’s start, giving him plenty of attention on their Twitter feed.
Tomsula later said he wasn’t surprised the ex-NRL international performed well in his debut.
“Quite honestly, I expected him to be very comfortable in space. I’ve watched a lot of film of him playing rugby. I’ve watched the physicality of his play in rugby,” he said
“He never missed a beat when he put on shoulder pads. That was the first hurdle I was concerned about. He can play in space. He’s a premier athlete in the world in space.”
The 49ers coach told Matt Maiocco of csnbayarea.com that despite Hayne’s performance, he will still have to work extremely hard if he wants to make the 53-man roster.
“He absolutely has to battle to make the roster,” Tomsula said.
“And I hope I’m presenting a very tempered approach to what happened tonight with Jarryd. There were things that went on and we still have a long way to go.
“The thing that excites me is the kind of person he is. You get into a situation where you’re rooting for guys, you’re pulling for guys. But it’s got to happen. And he’s one of those guys.”
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick also told Maiocco he was incredibly impressed with Hayne’s first hit out after watching the preseason match from the sideline.
“Amazing,” Kaepernick said.
“He went out there and played really well. He played fast, had a great run. Had a couple good punt returns. I think everyone was impressed with what he’s done.
“He’s making a very strong case, especially with what he did today.”
THE MAN HIMSELF
HAYNE spoke to sideline reporters following the 49ers’ defeat, saying he was glad he was able to fit into a sport that is still largely foreign to him.
“I think for me to get out there and have a solid series, solid run, that was the biggest thing for me,” Hayne said.
“It felt like a huge weight lifted. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I wanted to go out there, I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to go out there and look like a rugby player.”