At least one high-ranking member of the 49ers’ front office believes former Australian rugby league star Jarryd Hayne will make more of a contribution in his second season of American football.
"I think you'll see a jump from him,'' said 49ers executive Paraag Marathe, as reported by Daniel Brown of the Mercury News. "You look at elite athletes and those guys who have that willpower and desire to succeed and there's something special in them."
Marathe spent the past two seasons as team president. His title was changed recently to chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations, but Marathe’s responsibilities on the football side remain intact. He leads the 49ers’ analytics department and is the organization’s top contract negotiator.
Marathe made his comments last week as part of a panel to discuss the “globalization of sports and the role tech plays,” according to the Mercury News.
Hayne announced in October 2014 he was leaving the National Rugby League to attempt a career in the NFL. The 49ers signed him in March 2015. He made the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster to open the regular season and appeared in six games before he was waived and re-signed to the practice squad.
Hayne was promoted to the active roster for the final two regular-season games. As a rookie, he gained 52 yards on 17 rushing attempts, caught six passes for 27 yards, and averaged a team-best 9.5 yards on eight punt returns. He fumbled three times and was responsible for one turnover.
"The one thing that intrigued us the most about Jarryd Hayne was that will. It was that succeed-at-all-costs mentality that he had,'' Marathe said.
"That's what really attracted us to him. So when we brought him in, one of the big things was: Is he going to have enough time to acclimate? Is he going to have enough time to figure the game out? He improved week after week after week."
Hayne proved his determination to succeed after leaving behind a successful career and fame in Australia to begin a new career at 27 years old. Marathe said the 49ers place a lot of effort in trying to figure out the desire and motivation of players, especially during the lead-up to the NFL Draft.
"It's just trying to figure out who has that magic and how someone is wired,'' Marathe said. "When we were going through the draft process, we spent as much time -- if not more -- with their coaches, with their high school coaches, with their girlfriends, with their friends, with teammates."