Jarryd Hayne feels like a huge weight has been lifted off him as he staked a strong claim for a place in the San Francisco 49ers’ final roster with an incredible NFL pre-season debut.
Former NRL star Hayne became a global sensation and he is in great shape to make the 53-man squad for the NFL season which kicks off for the 49ers against Minnesota on September 14.
Playing as a running back and kick returner, Hayne impressed the 49ers and NFL commentators with a standout display in the 23-10 loss to Houston on Sunday (AEST).
The 27-year-old former rugby league fullback led both teams in rushing yards and kickoff returns.
“It felt a huge weight lifted. I brought a lot of pressure on myself, I wanted to fit in … I wanted to go out there and look like an American NFL player and I feel like I did that,” Hayne said.
“I was really excited and it was big too because we ran a play like that a couple of days before and the coach was on to me just to keep in the crease and to let it open up.”
The 49ers’ star quarterback Colin Kaepernick was full of praise for Hayne.
“He went out there and played really well. He played fast, had a great run and had a couple of good punt returns, so I think everyone is impressed with what he’s done,” Kaepernick said.
The San Francisco playmaker was asked whether he thought Hayne had done enough to make the cut.
“That’s not my decision, but I think he’s making a very strong case, especially with what he did today,” he said.
Hayne made an average of 12 yards from punt returns.
Early in the second quarter, he produced a 53-yard run, breaking through a hole in the left-side Texans’ defence before stepping inside a would-be tackler and brushing off another, before going out of bounds.
The run led to the 49ers only touchdown of the game when Blaine Gabbert threw to Garrett Celek to give the 49ers a 10-8 lead going into halftime.
That massive run came from Hayne’s second touch in the game and while it shocked a few million people around the globe, for Kaepernick, it wasn’t totally unexpected.
“It was surprising that it came out so early, but I watched a few of his highlight tapes … so it wasn’t something that surprised me too much,” he said.
Hayne’s play certainly impressed one of his biggest fans as San Francisco head coach Jim Tomsula delivered glowing praise for the Australian and said the best was to come.
“This was our first look at him in live action and we’re excited for him,” Tomsula said.
“Jarryd’s a professional athlete. He did some good things, but it’s the first pre-season game and we’ve got to grow from here.”
Hayne even earned the praise of the NFL who tweeted the video of his bullocking 33-yard kickoff return to their 12.7 million followers.
Tomsula and the NFL weren’t the only ones impressed, the man himself was happy with his first taste of real action.
The 49ers face the Dallas Cowboys next weekend in a pre-season clash in Texas.
San Francisco then play Denver and San Diego in their final two hitouts before the regular season opener against the Vikings.