49ers Sign Rugby Star Jarryd Hayne

The San Francisco 49ers continued their long history of signing unconventional players by signing rugby star Jarryd Hayne to a futures contract.

NBC Sports is reporting that the 49ers have signed Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne to a $100,000 contract. Other teams interested in the soon-to-be-converted Aussie star were the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. Altogether, 16 NFL teams showed interest in the 6 foot, 2 inch, 226 pound athlete, according to his agent, Jack Bectha.

Hayne’s odyssey began back in October, when Hayne decided to part ways with his professional Australian rugby team, the Parramatta Eels, to pursue his dream of NFL glory and riches.

“You have to be all in — I have all my chips on the table,” Hayne said. ” I have no back up plan.”

Hayne’s press conference, handled much like a prized recruit announcing his decision as to which college they will attend, even included Hayne sporting a 49ers baseball cap.

Even with a substantial futures contract (meaning he intends to play for the 49ers in the future) like his, Hayne will have an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster for the 49ers. Right now, Hayne is projected to battle for a running back slot. Most likely, he will contend for a special teams position.

The Sacramento Bee is reporting that Hayne certainly has the speed to contend with other running backs. During a pro day at the University of San Diego, Hayne ran a 4.53 40-yard dash. That’s comparable to top draft prospect Melvin Gordon, who is listed at 6 foot, 1 inch, and 215 pounds. Running back is a need area for the 49ers, as well. Kendall Hunter and Carlos Hyde are already signed for the 2015 season, and Frank Gore is expected to test the free agent market, so his future is uncertain.

Hayne is also potentially a return man for the special teams. As of now, the 49ers have Bruce Ellington, a rookie who was serviceable but not much else. The 49ers also had special teams specialists Kassim Osgood and Bubba Ventrone. Both players are free agents, but Ventrone has tentatively agreed to become a special teams coach for the New England Patriots next year.

Hayne, who has no experience with American football, was very successful with the Eels of the National Rugby League in Australia. Last season, Hayne led the entire league in scoring and was co-Player Of The Year. He won the Player Of The Year award outright in 2009.

[Image courtesy of Niners Nation]