By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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He had initially crossed them off his list, but on Monday, Jarryd Hayne chose the San Francisco 49ers.
Hayne has been preparing for the decision since October, when he quit the sport — a “bombshell” move in the rugby world — to focus on pursuing an opportunity in the NFL. He has twice been named the best player in the National Rugby League, and at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds, ran a 4.53 40-yard dash in a December workout.
The 27-year-old spent time visiting the Seattle Seahawks and consulted with current free agent running back Reggie Bush in 2014. He was rumored to be close to signing with Bush’s former team, the Lions, last week before announcing his decision to join San Francisco.
I’ve watched all of Jarryd Hayne’s highlights on youtube. I think he’s got a chance to be an excellent punt/kickoff returner. @49ers
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 3, 2015
Hayne met 49ers coach Jim Tomsula in December, but initially eliminated the team due to the uncertainty surrounding former head coach Jim Harbaugh’s job status. After Harbaugh departed for Michigan, Hayne was back on board with the Niners.
The pairing isn’t by mere coincidence — Tomsula has experience with international players, having spent several years coaching in NFL Europe and ascending to head coach of the Rhein Fire in 2006.
Hayne is guaranteed $100,000 in his deal with the 49ers, and acknowledged his transition from rugby to football isn’t exactly a safe move.
“This is a huge risk,” Hayne said. “I’m taking a massive leap of faith.”
Hayne will compete for a spot as a return man and running back. Even if Frank Gore‘s time in San Francisco is finished, Hayne will have decent competition in a Niners backfield that includes Carlos Hyde and Alfonso Smith.