Hayne making successful transition to American football
The two-time national rugby league Player of the Year, without any football experience of any kind at any level, earned his first career start in last weekend's loss at Detroit.
He'll be in the lineup again Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers host the St. Louis Rams in the season finale. Then he'll jump on a plane for home, catch up with family and friends, relax by the ocean and set a training schedule designed to get him ready for a second season with the 49ers.
After spending nine years playing professional rugby, the 27-year-old Hayne decided to give football a try. His rookie numbers don't add up to much - 17 carries for 52 yards and six catches for 27 yards - except to show signs of future success.
''I never knew what to expect having never played the game before,'' Hayne said Thursday. ''Everything about the season, just being out there, has been great. I'm excited for the future.''
Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst is just as excited about his future.
''He's kind of got that swivel-hip style,'' Chryst said. ''He makes people miss. His pads are a little upright and you get a little worried that he's going to get his block knocked off going so high through the line of scrimmage. But he's kind of got a knack for that.''
Hayne was used as a punt returner through the first six games of the year, including a long of 37 yards in Arizona, which he mentioned as one of his personal highlights.
''It would have been great to take it to the house,'' he said. ''There are a lot of things I can look back on. I'm still learning, still developing.''
Chryst said Hayne is making the same common mistakes rookies make, but that athletically, he has a huge upside. Chryst pointed to a pass route he broke off too early against the Lions. It was a simple five-yard up and break out.
''We got a little frustrated with him. Jarryd was so excited to run his route and we got the matchup we wanted on a linebacker,'' Chryst said. ''He didn't even get back to the line of scrimmage and he was breaking out.''
The frustration is tempered by his ability.
''For Jarryd to come in and play at the top level is really quite a remarkable story,'' Chryst said. ''He's been productive. He made a very nice run on a power play. Jarryd is an elite athlete. He wants to touch the ball. You can think back to all the positive things he did in the preseason. He's excited to be out there and he's making plays. As he works on fielding punts, he's going to be a really exciting player to watch.''
NOTES: TE Garrett Celek, currently on IR, was also encouraged by his season, his fourth in the league. He scored his first career touchdowns and more than doubled his combined receptions and yardage from his first three years. ''It's great blocking but every once in a while it's nice to get the ball,'' Celek said. ... WR Torrey Smith was honored with the Garry Niver Award, given annually to the 49ers player who shows the highest cooperation and professionalism with the media. ... Eric Mangini said NT Ian Williams is becoming one of the better nose tackles in the league. ''In terms of his stock or value, he's a great teammate and an outstanding performer,'' Mangini said.
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