The Hayne Plane has landed in the NFL. The former NRL star has turned his lottery-ticket chance of making an American football roster into a near reality.
Two stunning preseason performances from Jarryd Hayne has the NFL abuzz that he'll make San Francisco's 53-man final cut. If he managed to do so, it would be an incredible feat indeed.
But making it in American football is a marathon, not a 34-yard sprint. The ex-Parramatta Eels phenom has a long way to go before setting his spot in stone.
Here are five things he must do to give himself every shot at wearing a 49ers helmet into his first proper NFL match.
Stay healthy: The joke among American football coaches, players and general managers is that NFL stands for 'Not For Long'. You could fill 80,000-seat stadiums with prospects who have lit it up in preseason, only to be befallen by injury. Hayne has clearly spent hours in the gym and on the field getting himself into NFL shape. The key now is to focus on recovery, look after himself, get enough sleep and manage his workload.
Bury his head in the playbook: American football is one of the most cerebral sports on the planet. Trite though it may be, these games are won between the ears. That Jarryd Hayne is a freakish athlete is not in question; that he comes into a game that many have studied feverishly for years with only a basic grasp on its many nuances presents a genuine challenge. Hayne needs to spend as much time in the film room as he does in the gym. By all reports he's been a sponge at practice, eager to learn and driven to know the game inside and out. He was given stick by his teammates for carrying notes onto the field -- but that shows how serious he is about making this dream a reality.
Tackle: 49ers coaches are reportedly impressed with the tackling ability that Hayne brings from rugby league. The former fullback has made-for-measure technique and while he's not a defender, he could be useful on coverage teams (which means tackling in the open field from kick-offs and punts). For a player who will make it as a special teams talent (we know those runs looked impressive, but he's not an NFL-calibre running back), his defensive prowess will come in handy.
Run lower: The key criticism from coaches and scouts has been that Hayne runs too upright. It's perfect in the NRL, when he breaks into the open field and hits full tilt. But in the NFL, players are taught to bury the ball in their chest and run lower to the ground so that they can withstand contact and earn forward yardage. Right now, Hayne has wowed with his open-field running. But if he wants to improve as a running back, he must learn to charge into bodies (and these guys are monsters) and keep going. Running lower will help him do that.
Run low, sweet chariot. (Getty Images)
Don't buy his own press: Hayne will ultimately decide his own fate. He's an intelligent footballer and his athletic ability is not in question. He knows how hard he must work to gain a spot and keep it. But it must be seductive for a player who was given no chance by many pundits in the U.S. or Australia to buy into the dozens of headlines bearing his name. The Hayne Plane is the hottest story in the NFL right now. Legitimately. That's a big deal, and the American sports market is so much more intense than what Hayne would be used to facing back home. He needs to do his best to shut off the spotlight and focus on what's brought him this far: bloody hard work.
Don't look up at the headlines! (Getty Images)