49ers executive Paraag Marathe said recently that he expected running back/punt returner Jarryd Hayne to make a jump in his second NFL season.
Hayne is making a jump, but it isn’t the on-field one that Marathe was talking about. Hayne announced Sunday that he is leaving the 49ers and professional football to return to rugby with the Fiji team at the Olympics in Rio this summer. Hayne was a professional rugby player in Australia before joining the 49ers last season.
“I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji Rugby Sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up. The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL,” Hayne said in a statement.
“The 49ers organization has been incredibly supportive throughout my journey and I cannot thank them and the support staff enough. I am especially grateful to the strength and conditioning coaches, trainers and medical staff, equipment guys, public relations crew, chefs, logistics, and merchandise staff for their countless hours helping me in many different ways, so I could focus on football. Thank you to the fans from down under, as well as those around the world, who stood behind me and supported me along this amazing journey. I also want to thank the boys, especially my running back brothers, for their help and support in my transition to the NFL. I wish the team nothing but the best for the upcoming season.”
In a statement of his own, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke called Hayne a “tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality.” Hayne ran 17 times for 52 yards, caught six passes for 27 yards and returned eight punts in his lone NFL season.