Jarryd Hayne is lightning in a bottle.
Heading into training camp, the thought around NFL circles was that Hayne would have a tough time cracking the San Francisco 49ers final roster for the 2015 season. However, after the Aussie Rugby League star’s brilliant coming-out party on Saturday night in Houston, it’s clear he not only has a chance to make the roster but could become an impact player for the 49ers.
“#JarrydHayne” started trending on Twitter after he broke off a monster 53-yard gain running off tackle in the second quarter of the team’s first preseason game against the Texans. Here’s a video of the outstanding run.
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) August 16, 2015
The rookie showed excellent patience while waiting for the hole to open up, and when it did, he utilized smooth strides to chew up the yardage. He then showed himself to be elusive, evading the crashing defensive back and staying on his feet for a huge gain.
All in all, Hayne rushed for 63 yards on five runs—a gaudy 12.6 yards per carry.
The Australian also showed excellent return skills. He has exceptionally soft hands and calmly lets the ball come to him, despite the rush of incoming defenders bearing down on him. He averaged 12 yards per punt return and almost broke off a huge kickoff return, settling for 33 yards instead of six points.
After the game, rookie head coach Jim Tomsula praised Hayne’s performance and called him a “premier athlete in space.”
Tomsula on @jarrydhayne_1: "He did some things, but we've got to grow from here. He can play in space. He's a premiere athlete in space."
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) August 16, 2015
San Francisco features a crowded backfield, so it will be challenging for Hayne to make a case for regular-season carries. However, if he continues to put on a show every game from now until Week 1, then the 49ers would be foolish to not carve out a role for him in the running game.
Regardless, where Hayne truly shines at this time is as a return man. Returning kickoffs and punts puts Hayne in a comfort zone, as those plays are similar to what he excelled at during his Rugby League days in Australia. His size, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, turns him into a muscle-bound missile on returns, and he displays outstanding balance and vision after the ball is in his hands.
The 49ers may have found a hidden gem in Hayne, whose fame may soon grow in the United States to the same level it has been down under. He’s a big play waiting to happen, and we cannot wait to see what he does next.