Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Australia's Best Rugby Player Is Coming to Play in the NFL & Could Join the Patriots

It's not exactly Michael Jordan leaving the NBA for baseball, but don't tell that to Australia.

By Hayden Bird

You've probably never heard of Jarryd Hayne, and that's alright, because he's been previously plying his trade on the other side of the world.

Even in the age of the internet, his talents might have escaped you. But make no mistake: He's one of the best athletes you'll ever see, and he's coming to America, apparently with the intent of playing in the NFL.

Why is Hayne's arrival a big deal? He's one of the best rugby players in the world, and is electing to quit his sport at the top of his game to pursue a dream of playing football that is by no means certain. Where does this sound vaguely familiar?

It's actually very similar to Michael Jordan's story. Hayne is legitimately bored with the sport that has made him so famous, and wants a new challenge. This "challenge" (which was baseball in Jordan's case), is a decidedly lofty one. As Jordan proved, even a once-in-a-lifetime athlete struggles in a new environment.

Hayne will seemingly have an easier transition, since he's still doing roughly the same type of thing: Evading tacklers while running with a ball. That said, there are numerous differences between the two sports, starting with the type of hitting, and the cumbersome pads that he'll have to wear. Not to mention the ridiculously complicated playbooks.

Still, Hayne has received endorsements from NFL players, like Lions running back, Reggie Bush. He explained his decision in an open letter to Australian fans, and in his press conference earlier on Wednesday, Hayne expressed his thoughts on leaving the sport of rugby, and also his excitement for the football dream.

Where Hayne will sign in the NFL is another question. Many are already pointing at the Seahawks, who Hayne visited last month. That's not a done deal, however, and he could very well end up in another uniform, due to the fact that Seattle is already set at the kick return position (with Percy Harvin), and that's a position that might prove most natural for Hayne right away.

Who could use a kick returner?

Obviously, the New England Patriots. Devoid of a consistent, quality returner, Hayne would be a great fit in sports-crazed New England. Fans would most likely take to a player known for his blend of skill and toughness. If he decided to play running back, it might also cover a whole left by the Stevan Ridley injury, but let's not get ahead of ourselves (that would be a tough ask for a rookie with zero football experience).

More practically, it's not as crazy as it sounds. Keep in mind that the Patriots once drafted Nate Ebner (who has become an effective defensive back and special teams player) largely due to his ability displayed playing for both the U.S. and Ohio State's rugby sevens team (and not their football team). Watch: Ebner rugby highlights

More likely than not, he won't become a star in one of the most physically demanding leagues in the world. But we don't know that yet, and this is clearly an exciting story (it's creating headlines like this in Australia). Keep an eye on where Hayne ends up, and don't be too shocked if the cap-friendly Patriots at least show some interest.

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