NFL great believes Jarryd Hayne can make it
FORMER NRL star Jarryd Hayne is winning new fans every day in his bid to become a gridiron player, and San Francisco 49ers legend Ronnie Lott is one of them.
Rated the 11th-best player of all time by NFL.com, Lott played in the winning 1989 Super Bowl team with the 49ers, playing alongside Jeff Stover in the 20-16 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stover himself had been a convert to the NFL from track and field, making it as far as the US Olympic trials in the shot put in 1980. By 1986, he had established himself with San Francisco, making an impressive 11 sacks over 15 games.
Lott, inducted into the NFL's Hall of Fame in 2000, led the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories in his 10 seasons at the club, playing as a left or right cornerback, and also as a safety.
Speaking at the Hall of Fame weekend in Canton, Ohio, he said while plenty of critics were prepared to say Hayne faced too big a challenge to master the intricacies of gridiron, he wasn't one of them.
"We had a guy on our team, Jeff Stover. We also had a guy there who had never played on the defensive line," Lott told APN.
"So we saw guys that had never played certain positions make it.
"With his (Hayne's) background in the game of rugby league, he's got a shot."
Hayne has received plenty of praise from teammates after an impressive start to full-contact training with pads and a helmet, scoring an impressive touchdown after beating five defenders in one memorable play.
That came just two plays after he was "smashed" in a tackle, answering the question about how he would cope with the physicality of the game.
It was unclear whether he would get any game time in San Francisco's exhibition game against the Houston Texans this Sunday morning, but Lott said the Australian had to realise patience was crucial, despite only starting to learn the game at 27.
"What I'm pumped about is he's bringing something that he's learned all his life," the Hall of Famer said.
"But what he needs to understand is that whatever skills he needs to improve upon, which he will, he's going to become a better football player.
"The question is though - because he's got the desire and all the attributes - is can he learn how to play American football, and knock people off the line.
"And not only knock people off the line, but hold his responsibility.
"If he can do that, he's got a shot."