Jarryd Hayne, the former rugby star that won a roster spot with the San Francisco 49ers last offseason, announced on Sunday that he will retire from the NFL and return to his rugby career. Hayne made the announcement in a statement on the 49ers' official web site.
"I'd like to thank Jed and the entire York family for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the National Football League. I also want to thank Trent and his staff, as well as Jim Tomsula, Tom Rathman and the other coaches who invested in me to make this dream a reality. I'd also like to thank Coach Kelly for the opportunity to come back this year. The support and understanding from the 49ers organization was unbelievable when I let them know about my decision to pursue another dream. The past 12 months with the San Francisco 49ers have been absolutely incredible. I could not have predicted how far I have come as an NFL player. To not only be able to play in a game but also say that I started a game in the NFL is something that I will remember for a lifetime.
"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.
"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.
"Last but not least, I would like to thank the 49ers Faithful for your unwavering support. From day one you have always been in my corner and I can't thank you enough for the love you've shown for the kid from down under. Signing off, your mate, number 38."
49ers general manager Trent Baalke also released a statement:
"We would like to thank Jarryd for his contributions to the San Francisco 49ers organization and our community over the last year. Jarryd is a tremendous example of what can happen when you commit to a goal and do everything in your power to make it a reality. He earned the right to wear a 49ers uniform and compete alongside the best in the game. We fully support Jarryd's decision to pursue another dream - representing the Fiji Rugby Sevens team in this summer's Olympic games. We look forward to watching him in Rio and wish him continued success."
Hayne surprisingly made the roster last summer after impressing 49ers coaches with his punt return skills early in training camp. He also flashed the ability to make defenders miss in the open field and simply truck them over during his limited preseason snaps as a running back.
Hayne worked last season as a backup running back, punt returner, and special teams player for the 49ers. He finished the year with 17 carries for 52 yards, six receptions for 27 yards, and eight punt returns for 76 yards. He fumbled on his first NFL touch, muffing a punt against the Vikings on Monday Night Football. He continued getting action for the first six weeks of the season before he was eventually waived and signed to the team's practice squad.
Prior to the San Francisco's Week 16 game against the Lions, Hayne was promoted back to the active roster. He registered 14 of his 23 career offensive touches in that game, totaling 47 yards.
Hayne will now attempt to play in the Olympics with the Fiji Rugby Sevens team.