Jarryd Hayne has revealed a hidden desire to play American football, leaving the door slightly ajar for an unlikely code switch after undertaking secret gridiron sessions in the off-season.
Hayne, who is off contract at the end of next year, spent two training sessions with the UTS American football team in October, making inquiries into potential pathways to crack the National Football League in the US.
At Hayne's request, Gridiron Australia officials explored opportunities in the US for an open trial at an NFL franchise, but Hayne's World Cup commitments with the Kangaroos prohibited him from pursuing his American dream.
"I've definitely thought about it for sure," Hayne said. "I've had a couple of sessions with UTS and it's something that excites me. I actually spoke to Reggie Bush in depth about it when he was over here. We were talking about different plays, what Detroit was like, what Miami was like and New Orleans was like. It interests me.
"For me, life's always about a challenge. Playing Origin is a huge challenge and beating Queensland is obviously a huge challenge. Bringing Parramatta back up from the bottom of the ladder is another challenge. What lies beyond that I'm not too sure. As long as I'm still getting challenged in league, then I'll be here."
UTS Gridiron president and Gridiron Australia director Matt Steel helped set up Hayne's sessions in the off-season.
Hayne trained as a wide receiver in his first session and as a safety in the second session, showing enough promise for Gridiron Australia officials to take his request of seeking a try-out in the US seriously.
"We spoke about whether we could get him a try-out overseas," Steel said. "He said he had a strong desire to try and get over there. But he'd be giving up a lot to go over there. I think he was genuinely interested in going over. When we spoke to him, we told him we could put him in contact with some people that could open a few doors. I opened up a few doors for him after seeing what I could do but, by that stage, he had taken off to the World Cup.
"The people I spoke to were happy to put out an expression of interest to open up a few avenues for him but the World Cup took a bit of the shine off his dream."
UTS vice president and coach Matt Long admitted age was a huge factor in determining the 26-year-old's chances of making it in the sport, but believes Hayne has the ability - as long as he has the dedication - to make a fist of any opportunity he pursued in the US.
"If he was to go over and dedicate himself, I'm pretty sure he'd be able to go over there and make a really good crack at it and he'd stand a fairly good chance at being a first- or second-stringer." Long said.
"It's a hard sport to get into with some of the specific stuff because it is so specialised. But if he wanted to play NFL and someone decided to pick him up and give him the training, I think he wouldn't be out of place. If he was to go through the normal route, through high school and colleges, that would be impossible. But if he was to go over now to an NFL team and they gave him the intense training, he'd be a chance.
"He's got that natural athleticism, he's got the speed. He'd already be one of our top players in the country. He can tackle pretty well and has got a turn of speed. Playing fullback he has that eye of being able to read the field. Cornerback or the safety position where you have the over watch for all of what's happening on defence would suit him."
Former Tigers, Dragons and Roosters winger Peni Tagive is playing college football at Baylor University in Texas, while Australian Jesse Williams is heading into his second year with Super Bowl champions Seattle Seahawks after playing college football at Alabama.
While things seem to come naturally to Hayne on a rugby league field, he admits his lack of experience and his age would make the switch even more difficult.
"For me, being 26 and a different sport, it's huge," he said. "You pick up so many things when you're young and things come natural for you. It would obviously be a huge ask, but, for me, I might probably be a bit old. It's tactical. It's not one of those off-the-cuff sports like rugby league is. I was speaking to Reggie about it. It's like a game of chess and you have to make sure the move you make has got to be correct. It can't be wrong or it might jeopardise the team.
"Over here I'd go all right just with my ability, but from a technical point of view I was just kind of going mad trying to sack the quarterback all the time when I was training. It was pretty funny but I think the quarterback was a bit filthy. Their quarterback is a University quarterback. He actually made me look silly a few times throwing a dummy."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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