Jarryd Hayne believes a difficult upbringing in a housing commission suburb of Sydney’s south-west has made him the athlete he is today.
In an exclusive wide-ranging interview on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Hayne spoke of his tough – and remarkable – transition from NRL star to making a roster in American football.
As part of the TV piece, the 28-year-old returned to Minto where he grew up and admitted to having dark thoughts during his formative years.
But he also said his desire to escape was a major contributor in his ascension to being one of Australian sport’s most recognisable figures.
“I remember walking through one time and I was just like, ‘Man, this is s**t … why am I here?'” he told interviewer Karl Stefanovic.
“It just didn’t make no sense … I was like, you know, ‘I hate this life’.”
When quizzed if he had had dark thoughts, Hayne responded: “Yeah. You know what I mean.
“Just when I look back … obviously I was young. I don’t do that (think like that) anymore.
“It was a motivator as well. I wouldn’t have been the athlete I am today, wouldn’t have been as good, wouldn’t have been as talented, if I didn’t come through here (Minto).
“I always wanted to get out of the area.
“I wanted to give Mum a house and I think, you know, for me, the only way I could do that was rugby league.
“Rugby league became my everything. It became my oxygen because I didn’t have anything else.”
Hayne’s decision to walk out on a $1.5 million a year contract with the Parramatta Eels in October 2014 stunned the sporting world – as did the fact he made an NFL roster.
But while his code switch has seen his popularity soar, his bank balance hasn’t.
Hayne revealed he was paid just $100,000 for his first NFL season with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I’ve come from having nothing to having a lot, then having a lot to saying ‘nah, I don’t want that. I want this (NFL)’,” he said.
“The money (difference) was huge and I try not to think about it (laughs).
“I earned 100 grand in my first year in the NFL. If I had have stayed here, I would have earned 1.5 (million) … so it’s just a bit of difference.”
The former Eels and New South Wales star recalled the feeling of landing in the United States without a contract and without more than one night of accommodation.
“We landed and it was ‘let’s get a football, let’s go to the park and run around’,” he said.
“It’s a different kind of adrenalin … it’s a rush I’ve never had before. There’s fears, there’s anxieties, there’s questioning, there’s ‘where are we going to sleep?'”
Hayne, who admitted to knowing little about NFL before making the switch, spoke of his disappointment at being dropped from the 49ers roster – and to their 10-man practice squad – in October.
But he remains upbeat, even if he is unsure about what franchise he will be at next season.
“I’m taking myself on the craziest adventure I can,” he added.
“I want to keep evolving and keep pushing myself. I don’t ever want to be comfortable and I don’t ever want to be in a position where I’m just doing it for the sake of doing it.
“I could be anywhere next year – who knows?”