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Emerging rugby star Hayden Smith hoping to make jump to NFL

Aussie-born big man played college basketball National Football Post

Print This February 02, 2012, 01:00 PM EST
12 Comments

A blossoming rugby star is hoping to trade his career in Europe for a shot a spot on an NFL roster.

Hayden Smith, a front liner for the Saracens, is hitting the tryout circuit as a handful of NFL clubs line up to take a close look at the 6-6, 265-pounder. Smith, who had a workout for the New York Jets on Tuesday, will work out for the New Orleans Saints today.

Not everyone is sure what position matches Smith’s ability best, but the Australian-born 26-year-old played college basketball in the U.S. He has 9.2 percent body fat and has been timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 to 4.82 seconds. He’s got long arms and good lateral quickness, the kind of tools necessary to make the move from the pitch to the gridiron.

In just three short years, Smith has just scratched the surface of where his size and athletic ability can take him.

With similar physical traits and measurements to Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots, tight end may be the position that makes the most sense for Smith. Some have talked about looking at him as a pass rusher and perhaps as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. His large hands are soft and he is known for having good ball handling skills for rugby.

“To play in the NFL would undoubtedly be the pinnacle of my career," Smith said. "I will do whatever it takes to make my dream a reality."

Smith is originally from Sydney, Australia, where he played basketball through high school. He eventually earned a scholarship to Metropolitan State in Denver, where he was a starter for two years at power forward. After his college basketball career had ended, Smith took part in a club rugby match where he discovered that he was a natural for the game. Within a few weeks he caught the eye of Scott Johnson, the then coach for the USA Eagles, and was promptly selected to play for the USA. Smith was invited to England on a trial with Saracens. After playing rugby for only 18 weeks, Smith signed a contract with the Premiership team, where he continues to be a rising star. Smith has also showed himself to be a standout player for the USA in the recent Rugby World Cup tournament in New Zealand.

"We expect to have a very surgical tour of workouts in February and March of this this year," Bechta said. "We have targeted interested NFL clubs who will be committed to developing Hayden’s physical skills. Hayden is pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL with the full support of the Saracen’s management. Club CEO Edward Griffiths is a progressive leader who has been behind Hayden's NFL endeavors."Smith will finish the season with the club but is currently in the U.S for a few planned NFL workouts that have been arranged by his veteran NFL agent Jack Bechta. It is possible Smith will travel back to the U.S. for some additional planned workouts in the near future. Bechta also represents fellow Australian Pro Bowl punter, Mat McBriar of the Dallas Cowboys.

“Although Hayden most likely will be a candidate for the development roster in his first year, I sincerely believe he can contribute this season on special teams because of his athletic ability and polished tackling skills. With some good coaching, I believe he can be a starter caliber player during the 2013 season.”

In full disclosure, Bechta is a founding partner of the National Football Post
 

Comments

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MrTouchdown
Feb 02, 2012
01:18 PM

LOL!

Thanks for the chuckle, Jack.

Poppa Pump
Feb 02, 2012
02:05 PM

No chance in hell. Not even close to the best athlete in the usa squad let alone world rugby. If Jonah Lomu couldn't make it hayden smith is better served staying put.

Ryan
Feb 02, 2012
02:52 PM

Pathetic advertisement. Why should anyone trust NFP considering your unabashed bias? Adios

musterfan25
Feb 02, 2012
07:16 PM

I see no reason why Saracens Lock Hayden Smith can be successful at the NFL level. Professional rugby players are the equals of NFL players athletically and, in some cases, their conditioning is far superior. Unlike in football, EVERY player on the rugby pitch has to be a skilled ball handler.

Don't be so quick to write this young man off. Your flippant comments just show your level of ignorance.

By the way, New Zealand All-Blacks Wing Jonah Lomu passed on the overtures of the Dallas Cowboys after the 2003 Rugby World Cup. It certainly wasn't a matter of him not "making it" in the NFL.

Mike J
Feb 02, 2012
07:21 PM

Foreigners should not receive scholarships to taxpayer-supported universities.

Poppa Pump
Feb 02, 2012
10:06 PM

Like I said no chance. A kicker out punter is more likely to cone from rugby before a skilled position player. Smith really isn't that good a player or athlete. Seen him play, not impressed.

Hodag54501
Feb 03, 2012
04:03 AM

Back in the '70's, as I remember, the Packers brought in the "World's Stongest Man"(can't remember his name) for a tryout. You'd think a bodybuilder would have some success in the NFL. Even with the pathetic Packers teams back then I don't think he lasted training camp.
Maybe there's more to playing American football than just being an athlete.

Juice
Feb 03, 2012
07:18 AM

I play both rugby and football and the transition between them is not as difficult as you say. I play flanker in rugby and tight end/ defensive end in football and a lot of the skills I got from rugbycan give you an edge both physically and mentally. He is a big guy and he is pretty athletic so think he will do just fine. Hardest thing to adjust to is playing in pads

Jon
Feb 03, 2012
11:35 AM

It's a lot easier to make it in the NFL that you think. Poor kid is gonna be so bored after playing rugby his whole life...

rj
Feb 03, 2012
12:33 PM

I play rugby in the U.S. so I can provide a little context.

In rugby, you're more driven to be a better all-around athlete big on endurance while in football you're very highly specialized and are driven to short bursts of energy and sprinting just due to the different nature of the two games.

Smith being a lock and due to the all-around nature rugby players are required to have, I think a tight end or a linebacker would suit him best. At tight end he'd catch the ball, run play patterns, block, and can run support. At linebacker it'd be no different than playing defense on rugby except you have to deal with blocking but you don't have to worry about rucking.

I have a lot of guys on my own rugby team that once played football, and not just high school either, guys that played at Division I universities.

rj
Feb 03, 2012
12:36 PM

I play rugby in the U.S. so I can provide a little context.

In rugby, you're more driven to be a better all-around athlete big on endurance while in football you're very highly specialized and are driven to short bursts of energy and sprinting just due to the different nature of the two games.

Smith being a lock and due to the all-around nature rugby players are required to have, I think a tight end or a linebacker would suit him best. At tight end he'd catch the ball, run play patterns, block, and can run support. At linebacker it'd be no different than playing defense on rugby except you have to deal with blocking but you don't have to worry about rucking.

I have a lot of guys on my own rugby team that once played football, and not just high school either, guys that played at Division I universities.

kelly78ag@gmail.com
Feb 05, 2012
12:41 AM

Ruck on with your on bad self.
Spread the good word.Rugby

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