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Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne to join San Francisco 49ers

Jarryd Hayne goes from top Australian rugby star to San Francisco 49ers project player

Jarryd Hayne was named the top player in Australia's National Rugby League for the second time last season, a title that likely won't get him out of rookie drills in training camp with the San Francisco 49ers.

"The hard stuff starts now," Hayne said during a news conference in Sydney on Tuesday announcing his decision to sign with the 49ers. "This is a huge risk. I'm taking a massive leap of faith."

Hayne had also been in talks with the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions before he ultimately elected to join San Francisco. 

The Australian said he hadn't been interested in the 49ers until they made former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula their head coach. Tomsula spent nine years with NFL Europe teams and worked with rugby players making the transition to the NFL.

The 6-foot-2, 226-pound project player will join the 49ers on a futures contract with $100,000 in guaranteed money and compete for a roster spot at running back or as a kick returner.

In Australia, Hayne, a superstar, had been expected to sign one of the largest contracts in NRL history -- somewhere around $1 million per season -- before he suddenly announced in October he planned to leave the sport to play American football. 

"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL, and at my age, this is my one and only chance at having a crack at playing there," Hayne, 27, wrote in a letter to fans announcing his exit from the Parramatta Eels, his team since 2006.

The Eels obliged Hayne, releasing him from his contract. However, if he fails to catch on in the NFL, he is expected to return to Parramatta.

"I'm putting all my chips on the table," Hayne said Tuesday, "and whatever happens, happens."

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

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