Hayne cited new 49ers coach Jim Tomsula as his primary reason for picking the 49ers, per Birkett and Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group:
Dave Birkett @davebirkett
Hayne said the Jim Tomsula hiring helped flip him to SF's way after thinking he was going to Detroit. Wait till he sees Tomsula in a presser2015-3-3 03:15:13
Cam Inman @CamInman
Jarryd Hayne picked #49ers in large part to Jim Tomsula: 'He was the one coach who knew transition better than anyone'2015-3-3 03:14:22
Birkett speculated why else Hayne likely chose the 49ers:
Dave Birkett @davebirkett
The 49ers gave him $100k guarantee; the Lions did not offer a guarantee. Probably more a factor than Tomsula2015-3-3 03:18:01
This figures to be one of the most compelling NFL storylines over the next several months, even if it doesn't leave a lasting impression on the league as a whole.
Hayne, who was revered as a megastar in Australia, won the Daily M Player of the Year award in 2009 and 2014. Plenty of Australians have had success in the NFL, but none has done so as a legitimate offensive weapon, which is what the former rugby fullback is aiming to do.
Carlin Isles, an American rugby sevens player who was on the Lions practice squad in 2013, talked about the difficulty Hayne will face, via ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein:
It’s going to be really hard for him. It depends on his dedication. I think if he’s dedicated, he could speed up the process. But for him, who never played football and to understand the defensive schemes, to understand the holes, the footwork, things like that, it’s going to take some time.
Especially if you haven’t grown up playing American football, it’s going to take a lot because it is not easy. It’s difficult to understand.
Still, it's easy to see why his potential is so intriguing. A highly popular international star who has enjoyed major success in a similarly physical sport, Hayne is 6'2", 226 pounds and athletic. At a recent pro day, he reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, which is exceptional for a player his size:
"I think he'd do pretty well actually," said former Lions running back Reggie Bush, via MLive.com's Kyle Meinke. "Because he's quick, he's elusive, he's powerful, he's fast, he has great vision and those are all the things you need to play running back in the NFL."
The learning curve will be steep, and there's a good chance Hayne's immediate impact will be felt on special teams, whether he's covering or returning kicks.
But it will be undeniably fascinating to watch his development. He has the physical tools and the apparent drive to carve out a real role in the league.