Hat’s on: Jarryd Hayne at his press conference on Tuesday. Photo: Matt KingIt doesn’t matter which magical sky daddy you believe in, should you believe in one at all.
What’s clear is that Jarryd Hayne believes in his magical sky daddy as he takes the “leap of faith” — the 27-year-old’s repeated words, not ours — into the unknown of the NFL.
“I’m the worst Christian I know,” Hayne said on Tuesday at a media conference confirming the San Francisco 49ers had secured him as an undrafted free agent. “I’m not perfect. I struggle with sin and temptation all the time. For me, they are the key areas where I want to improve as well. They’re part of that journey now. It’s not just about playing in the NFL. Christ comes before everything. That is why, when you make those decisions, if you don’t have Him to lean on or focus on, there’s going to be a lot of dark days over there. It won’t last. I won’t last.”
There have been many non-believers in the five months since Hayne’s other bombshell media conference, when he announced that he was walking out of Parramatta to pursue a long-held dream of playing in the NFL.
He has signed a fat deal with Telstra, whose auditorium in the Sydney CBD was the scene for Tuesday’s announcement that Hayne had taken a significant step closer to making the dream a reality.
The media conference certainly had enough chutzpah befitting the NFL.
“It’s the San Francisco 49ers,” Hayne declared, before reaching under the desk and producing a red 49ers cap and plonking it on his head. The iconic 49ers emblem glowed on the giant screen behind him.
Asked later how much Telstra had paid Hayne to follow him on this American football odyssey, long-time agent Wayne Beavis barked in his signature gravelled voice: “Plenty. That’s a rough estimate”.
Hayne is thankful to many people for getting him this close to an NFL contract, but there was one individual who received the most recognition.
“First and foremost, I want to thank God,” Hayne started, before making so many references to the man upstairs you could almost have mistaken the event for the Grammys.
Hayne has never shied away from his faith.
After he was shot at in Kings Cross years ago, and then found his way back into form with Fiji at the 2008 World Cup, he started to refer to God more frequently in interviews.
In the five months since he left rugby league, though, his faith has evidently strengthened.
How could it not, he asks.
“You make a decision like this, you need to be wanting to do more than play a bit of football,” Hayne said. “With the pay cut I’m taking as well, it takes more than … For me, it’s faith. It’s growing as a person. It’s about believing that I can make the impossible possible. It’s one thing talking about it, but it’s another thing doing it.”
Much like playing in the NFL.
Sitting at the back of the room on Tuesday, Hayne’s speed coach, Roger Fabri, offered some perspective: “When talent meets work ethic, it’s impossible to stop”.
A prime example? Sonny Bill Williams, who Fabri has also worked with extensively.
There has never been any doubting Hayne’s talent.
Yet for much of his rugby league career, his lack of ethic has been almost as legendary as some of the miracles performed on the field.
Whenever he was in camp for either NSW or Australia, he’d stun the coaching staff with his lack of commitment in the gym. For a platoon of Eels coaches, including Brad Arthur, he was harder to solve than a Rubik’s cube.
But during the past five months, Hayne has hit every benchmark he’s needed to hit.
As Fabri explains, “first-step quickness” is king in the NFL.
“How quickly you can get to your top speed,” Fabri said. “That’s where I’ve seen him improve significantly and he still has a lot of improvement in him.”
Of course, Hayne will need to hit many more targets in the next few months if he’s to secure a playing contract with the 49ers, where hungry NFL wannabes will surely be after the unknown “rugby” player from down under.
“I’m a big boy,” Hayne said, unfazed. “I’ve been bullied before.”
Maybe that’s all Hayne ever needed: a new challenge.
“I ticked every single box I could here,” he said. “I helped Parra climb out from the bottom. I faced dark days with two wooden spoons. And still, I was praying to God. Those are the things that build you up and make your character to what they are today.
“It’s not my success that I am basing this move on. It’s my character and my strength of my inner self. It takes a bit more than winning a couple of Dally Ms or a World Cup or a Four Nations to make a decision like this.”
Yes, it all sounds a bit gibberish. Like something from a self-help book more than the New Testament.
But whether you share Hayne’s belief in himself or something slightly higher, full credit to him risking it all. The closest most footballers will come to the NFL is through a Playstation.
Told that his client had many references to God, Beavis smiled, like he’d heard it all before.
“So would I if I was him. He’s going to need His help.”
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