Leading Off

Leading Off: 49ers rookie Jarryd Hayne is a natural in helmet and pads

There are no short players in the NBA – at least not since 5-foot-3 Muggsy Bogues retired years ago.

And there’s no crying in baseball.

In professional football, the No.1 rule in an NFL press box is no cheering.

But that’s hard to do when you’re watching Jarryd Hayne return a punt.

You feel like standing to applaud the 49ers’ rookie running back/punt returner and former rugby star from Australia because of his natural ability on an American football field. This bloke has played only two football games and had limited practice time in a helmet and pads. But Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, his punt returns of 27, 34 and 23 yards and his eight rushes for 54 yards (6.8-yard average) had veteran football writers looking at each other, shaking their heads and smiling in amazement.

While fans in Australia called the rugby star “Hayne Plane” for his unique flying style of celebration after scoring a “try” in the opposition’s “in-goal,” a more Bay Area-familiar moniker of “The Say Hayne Kid” was bounced around the Levi’s Stadium press box.

After the game, fans rushed to the 49ers’ team store to buy No.38 jerseys, though none are available because he’s still not an official member of the roster.

While Hayne has 258 all-purpose yards in two games, the 49ers’ coaches remind us these are just exhibition games to help determine who will start and who will make the 53-man roster.

If the forecast of another 8-8 season is accurate for the 49ers, it would be good business for owner Jed York to make sure fans wear No.38 jerseys at Levi’s Stadium this season.

Hayne just might be a ray of sunshine in a cloudy season.

Victor Contreras: 916-326-5527, vcontreras@sacbee.com, @sacbeevictor


  • WHAT TO WATCH: Baseball, Chicago Cubs at Giants, 7:15 p.m., CSNBA: Matt Cain earned Tuesday’s start by pitching well against St. Louis last week.
  • TWITTER CHATTER: “Jim Tomsula: Jarryd Hayne needs to keep learning football ‘& not carry a country on his back and not carry a flag for cross over athletes.’” – @CamInman
  • ON THIS DATE: On Aug. 25, 1996, Tiger Woods won an unprecedented third U.S. Amateur Championship, beating Steve Scott on the 38th hole after coming back from 5 down with 16 to play.
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