Australia’s last successful NFL export has labelled Jarryd Hayne’s achievement of landing a spot on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster as “amazing”.
Hayne learned he had won a place in the 53-man squad on Saturday (Sunday morning AEST), getting the news via a short text message from his coach Jim Tomsula.
It read: “Welcome to the starting line, it’s a long race.”
Discussing Hayne in a press conference, Tomsula said the odds of an American making it in the NFL were “astronomical”, and declared Hayne’s achievement an “outstanding accomplishment”.
Sav Rocca, who spent seven seasons in the NFL as a punter with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, echoed those sentiments, making no secret of his admiration for what Hayne has achieved in such a short space of time.
“I think it’s amazing for him to make the 53-man squad,” Rocca told The New Daily.
“If you had asked me five months ago I would have thought that he might have made a practice squad for a year or two, just to build up his confidence and his instinct for the game.
“He’s come on in leaps and bounds and done an awesome job in showing what he can do and good on him for achieving it.
“There are so many people out there trying to do what he’s done and for him to go past them and get a spot on the roster is awesome.”
Rocca kicked 748 AFL goals in a 14-season career, putting him 13th on the all-time goalkickers list.
And the 41-year-old said Hayne’s achievement is all the more remarkable for the position he plays in.
“For him to be over there and doing this and playing offense, it’s amazing,” he said.
“No other Australian has gone over there and played offense.”
Rocca said he had been surprised with how quickly Hayne has picked up a feel for the American game, and said his rugby league skill set was serving him well.
“He’s done a bit of that over here with his rugby and I think that’s carried really well in what he has to do now,” he said.
“He’s certainly got the skill attributes – he’s very agile, he’s very fast, he’s very strong.
“The thing that I was concerned about was his instinct play – the ability to perform at certain times and I didn’t know if he’d get a good grasp of that in just the four games that he was playing.
“In all cases, it looks like he’s showing that, they’re prepared to stick with him and he’s doing it really well.”
And should Hayne, 27, continue to impress, Rocca said his American adventure could continue well into his 30s.
“He really does look after himself, body wise, he’s very professional,” he said.
“I think he could last a good four or five years. Whether that comes to pass, I’m not sure.
“There’s always two or three punt returners.
“Some guys don’t really like doing punt returning, but if he’s putting his hand up and saying ‘I want to do it’ then good for him.
“It’s a spot in the team where he can make his name.”