One of the most remarkable stories in Australian sport has been realised: Jarryd Hayne is officially an NFL player.
The former Parramatta Eels star in the NRL survived the final round of cuts, issued on Sunday morning (AEST), and secured his place on the San Francisco 49ers' final roster of 53.
Welcome aboard mate!September 5, 2015
Hayne announced with great delight that his dream of becoming an NFL player was now just a matter of days from coming true -- the 49ers play their first match of the season on September 15.
IT ALWAYS WORKS OUT! I thank GOD for WHAT HE has done and going to do on this incredible journey!! I'm on the 53 MAN ROSTER FOR THE #49ers.— jarryd hayne (@jarrydhayne_1) September 5, 2015
Only moments earlier he revealed he had been anxiously awaiting the news.
I'll know my future in 13 minute. First time I'm a little nerves— jarryd hayne (@jarrydhayne_1) September 5, 2015
Hayne told Fox Sports Australia that he was out sightseeing with his family when he received the life-changing news.
"I was waiting for the phone call, to confirm, then I called my agent so I could be relieved more than anything," Hayne said. "We found out, it's a great day in San Fran."
Hayne reflected on the long journey from quitting the NRL nearly a year ago to realising what could have, at the time, only been described as a dream.
"Just talking to my agent in Australia, I remember telling him I wanted to come over nearly 12 months ago," he told Fox Sports.
"This whole journey was never about making a roster, it was all about giving myself an opportunity. I wanted to take a risk.
"To see all the people get behind me, I can't thank them enough for their love and support."
Earning His Stripes
Hayne had been considered at longer than long odds to find work anywhere after he sensationally quit rugby league at the top of his game in Australia.
But after impressing coaches and scouts with his work ethic, natural ball skills and freakish athletic ability, he managed to catch on with the 49ers in the off-season.
Hayne took the opportunity that many others who've played the game for years have let slip during the preseason; he consistently shone for San Francisco during what was effective a month-long tryout for NFL hopefuls.
NFL.com analyst Chris Wesseling described Hayne as "the story of the preseason".
"It's extremely difficult to earn a roster spot with no (American) football experience," Wesseling told The Huffington Post Australia.
"He's a hell of an open-field runner."
Hayne makes the roster as the 49ers' likely starting punt returner, having shown brilliant instincts at the position during the preseason.
He's listed on the depth chart at running back, but he'll have very limited opportunities for playing time at the position -- especially in his first season.
"His rugby league experience has obviously been helpful as a returner," Wesseling told HuffPost Australia.
"I suspect he'll be limited to special teams (returning kicks, punts and tackling) and package plays at running back."
Hayne's mazy runs, tackles, bone-jarring hits and safe hands have made him both a regular on the highlight reel and a fan favourite this preseason; indeed his number 38 jersey has been a popular choice at sporting goods stories across the Bay Area.
Looks like flights will cost $1,200US for those in Australia who want to come to the Bay Area for Jarryd Hayne's 49ers debut— Cam Inman (@CamInman) September 5, 2015
Of course in the NFL, life can change in an instant. While Hayne has made the initial 53-man cut, there is still plenty for him to do to make sure he plays a snap in week one of the regular season and beyond.
49ers coach Jim Tomsula confirmed as much, warning that while Hayne was unquestionably a "world class athlete" he would have to earn every second of playing time in an unforgiving sport.
"The NFL can be an unforgiving business, you’re playing for your job every day," he told reporters on a conference call.
"It’s not like you make a milestone and now you’re there. The way I like to put it is, now you’ve got yourself to the starting line.
"It’s a long race."
For now, the 49ers have cleared the Hayne Plane for take off.
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