San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Tomsula summed it up perfectly.
“I can’t say enough about his approach and the kind of person he is. He’s a world class athlete. He’s a national figure back home and — just think about that now — he put that on hold and walked away from that. Very courageous.”
Not courageous in a Yes, Minister sense.
No, we’re talking genuine ticker here.
A month before he threw in a lucrative rugby league career for a shot at the NFL, Jarryd Hayne suspected he might be too long in the tooth to switch codes.
“It’s probably a bit late now anyway, I’m 26,” he said. “And then there’s the technical side of it.”
The technical side of it. Like learning to walk again. But differently. He had to forget actions that came naturally to him and drill new ones until they became reflex.
An NFL novice, he pitted himself against players that have been learning the craft since childhood.
“This is a huge risk,” he said in March when he signed with the 49ers. “I’m taking a massive leap of faith.” But at the same time: “I don’t put any limits on what I can do.”
He trained his arse off and spent his downtime attending to what he described as his greatest challenge, learning the NFL playbook with its multiple variations of hundreds of plays. He got up at six and went to bed after midnight to fit it all in.
He went to training sessions with notes tucked in his shorts. In the locker room, he scribbled down new plays while they were fresh in his mind.
“I’m just taking my time, making sure I get what the coaches are teaching me right,” he said. “I’m learning from the bottom again. Part of this experience was that humbling of myself.”
In the end, he didn’t just squeak into the 49ers 53-man roster. He was the talk of the pre-season. If he planned to fly under the radar, well, he completely stuffed up the coordinates.
Almost half of the 49ers tweets about the new roster focused on Jarryd Hayne. The NFL, knowing PR gold when it presents itself, issued four Hayne tweets in quick succession and got the #HaynePlaneHereToStay hashtag airborne.
Fans are scooping up Hayne’s No. 38 jersey faster than the club can make them. And the 49ers just got themselves a whole continent of new fans.
Hayne just takes it into his stride. He has been described by one trainer as being without ego. His Twitter profile has the understatement you’d expect of such a person.
“Est:1988,” it reads. “Raised: Southwest of Sydney. Employment: San Francisco 49ers #38. Proverbs 27-17 is my verse.”
Proverbs 27-17. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The knowledge that for all your talent, hard work and determination, you can’t do it alone. The knowledge also that your example can inspire others.Embed from Getty Images
Already, Hayne’s influence ripples outward in unexpected ways. To some kids on the Santa Clara high school football team.
“He proves the doubters wrong,’’ one of them tells The Daily Telegraph. “When Jarryd first arrived, nobody thought he’d do anything. And he knew that. Still he kept going. Proves that anything is possible.”
It says something, doesn’t it, that in a week marked by a march of human misery westwards across Europe, we got our inspiration from a football player.
Wouldn’t it be something if we could hold our political leaders in the same regard? If they could embrace fear rather than peddle it? If they could look at a photo of a dead Syrian boy without touting the merits of their own policy?
And what of our own example? Can we think of times we have made our own leap of faith? Can we say we are our best selves? That we inspire others?
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.