Jarryd Hayne remains a long-shot to land an NFL roster spot in early September. But the former Australian Rugby League player is putting himself in the best possible spot to succeed this offseason.
Hayne spent the last few weeks in Phoenix learning, among other things, how to catch a Colin Kaepernick fastball, which, as even distinguished veteran pass catchers like Randy Moss can attest, is no easy feat. Moss once dislocated finger while attempting to haul in one of Kaepernick's darts on a crossing route.
Hayne impressed observers -- including Kaepernick -- at EXOS performance center with two things. He's fast, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. That's an excellent time for someone who goes 6-2, 226 pounds and is better than many of the similarly sized wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
Second, Hayne has surprisingly soft hands. Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. also trained at EXOS this winter, and coach Dennis Gile said that all of the participants tried their hand at the kind of one-handed snags that Odell made popular -- and made seem routine -- last season. He said Hayne's efforts were impressive, especially for someone mostly used to catching underhand passes on the rugby field.
"He was OK at that," Gile said. "No one can catch the ball like (Beckham), but Jarryd was coming along pretty well."
Hayne's arrival in Phoenix wasn't his first exposure to the sport. He's dabbled with semi-pro teams in Australia and arrived in Los Angeles in the fall to seek out coaches and trainers who could give him a crash course in American football.
Gile said Hayne was one of the guys who would arrive early and stay late to catch footballs, often doing so alongside teammates Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton, who also trained at EXOS.
"He took coaching from anyone and everyone he could," Gile said of Hayne. "He was a humble, hard-working guy."
Hayne, Patton, Ellington, Kaepernick and many of the rest of the 49ers will arrive in Santa Clara next week for the start of the team's offseason program.
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