New York Jets Sign Australian Rugby Star Hayden Smith, Who’s Never Played Professional Football Before

What could possibly go wrong?

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Marco Luzzani / Getty Images

Hayden Smith of Saracens is tackled by Alessandro Zanni of Benetton Treviso during the Heineken Cup match on January 22, 2012 in Treviso, Italy.

Is the New York Jets management in the midst of a midlife crisis? The team’s recent pickups are leaving fans scratching their heads. First, they take on Tim Tebow as a backup quarterback despite already having the very capable Mark Sanchez as a starter.

And today, it was announced that the Jets had picked up rugby star Hayden Smith. He’s a 6-foot-7 Australian, a former basketball player and current rugby player. Naturally, the accolades have poured out for the Jets’ new player, with his height and sporting prowess – four years of rugby experience for the United States national team and a British professional club – being touted as assets to the team. But Smith might as well be a walk-on for a high school team, because he has no American football experience to speak of.

While the Jets haven’t yet acknowledged the signing, Smith’s personal coach Tim Brewster broke the news on Twitter. “Hayden Smith has signed with the Jets! Really think this guys upside in the NFL is huge!” he wrote. Smith was widely known to be shopping around for an NFL team to join, having worked out with the Eagles and the Redskins in past months. And if the deal is declared official, Smith will likely take a tight end position with the Jets.

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But it may not be an easy process. For the Jets’ part, the team will have to invest time and money into training someone who isn’t familiar with the nuances of American football. The 26-year-old Smith is learning the football ropes from Brewster, who formerly headed the University of Minnesota team (and was fired midway through his fourth season, with an paltry 15-30 overall record). But to his credit, Brewster helped San Diego Chargers phenom Antonio Gates make a similar inter-sport leap from college basketball player to Pro Bowl-bound tight end.

Brewster told Australia’s Daily Telegraph that he’s optimistic that Smith can be sculpted into a top-notch player. “And I am going to tell you Hayden Smith is one beautiful piece of clay. Just mold him into what you want him to be.”

Let’s hope they go with a marble finish. That could cause some damage on the field.

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