Jarryd Hayne Retires From Football To Pursue Another Dream

Sep 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne (38) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne (38) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

After just one year as an NFL running back with the San Francisco 49ers, Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne has announced his retirement. What’s next?

Jarryd Hayne, the former Aussie league rugby player, came to America to try his luck at American football last year. He was an internationally known star, dominating the National Rugby League for the Parramatta Eels since 2006.

The San Francisco 49ers signed Jarryd Hayne to a three-year, $1.5 million deal in March of 2015, following the NFL Draft. He had never played a minute of American football, but teams were confident that his impressive level of athleticism would lend itself to picking up the game quickly.

Heading into training camp, Hayne impressed veteran players with his skill and speed. Reggie Bush and Colin Kaepernick even speculated that Hayne would likely make the final 53-man roster.

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That optimism carried into the pre-season, where Hayne ran the ball and was the primary returner. He dazzled in the punt return game, with several returns of over 20 yards. On kickoffs, he looked good as well.

Even in the run game he was able to establish himself and rack up some yardage in several games.

All of this culminated in the announcement that Hayne had made the final 53-man roster prior to Week one last season. In any light, that is impressive for a guy who had never played football until about five months prior to making the team.

In his Monday Night Football debut, which was an exciting first-ever game at Levi’s Stadium, Hayne gained yards on several rushes. However, the night was marred by him muffing his first-ever punt return attempt.

Fast-forward several weeks, and Hayne had been receiving less and less playing time. Eventually, the 49ers finally decided to waive him in late October, and he signed with the practice squad.

Little was heard from Hayne the rest of the year until the 49ers had been decimated by injuries and they brought Hayne back to the 53-man roster. Upon his return, he got a large amount of playing time given that most other 49ers’ running backs were hurt.

Hayne certainly didn’t dominate the NFL, but he made strides as a rookie. He had 155 all-purpose (running, catching, punt return) yards on the year, which is 155 more than plenty of career-footballers out there.

The 49ers were excited to have Hayne back for a full offseason regimen this year, and the 49ers needed depth at running back. Also, no one can actually say the idea of an exceptional athlete like Hayne playing under the wonderfully imaginative offense of new head coach Chip Kelly wouldn’t have been interesting.

Now, Jarryd Hayne has retired from the NFL entirely. He issued a statement through the 49ers’ site this morning, thanking management and fans for their hospitality.

He didn’t just up and quit his athletic endeavors, however. His next challenge will be playing for the Fiji National Rugby Sevens team, and competing in the 2016 Olympics down in Brazil.

This is not only big news because Hayne is returning to his first sport, but because rugby itself is returning to the Olympics. Rugby hasn’t been an Olympic event since 1924, but in 2009, the IOC voted to bring it back in time for the 2016 games. In any light, that’s a big accomplishment.

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Overall, the rugby to football experiment wasn’t a rousing success, but will certainly leave many wondering what could have been, and what sporting success will be next for this exceptional athlete. For the 49ers, they now must move on with normal business, or at least as normal as anything with Chip Kelly could be.