Former Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne went from being the sensation of the exhibition season of 2015 to being a forgotten man on the San Francisco 49ers roster.
He played just eight regular-season games, bobbled opportunities as a punt returner early in the season and carried the ball just 17 times as a running back, even though the team’s running back corps was wiped out by injuries.
Yet by the end of the season, Hayne said he was determned to pursue his NFL career and is eager to see what a new season under head coach Chip Kelly and his staff will bring.
“There’s a whole bunch of things I’ve improved on and over time, I’m going to get better,” he told a writer for the team’s website near the end of the season. “I’m excited for the future because I’m still learning and still developing.”
Now 49ers general manager Trent Baalke has said he’s also counting on the Hayne experiment to continue this offseason under Kelly and his new staff.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia that was published Sunday, Baalke said he’s confident Hayne can give it another good shot in 2016 because “he is conscientious and this is very important to him.”
Added Baalke: “He works hard and I would expect him to make a nice jump from Year 1 to Year 2. Now, is that going to be enough to establish himself on the 53 (roster) within this system? I don’t know. But he’s going to be given every opportunity like we promised him going into this. We are committed to this.”
Though Hayne had never played American football before and had to pick up so many nuances of the game in a high-pressure crash course, Baalke said Hayne’s work ethic and attitude were exemplary.
“He was a pro’s pro throughout the whole season,” said Baalke.