New York Jets news, commentary and insider info from beat writer Kimberley A. Martin.
Agent: Jets sign rugby player
The Jets are set to add some international flavor to their roster -- in the form of a star rugby player who's never played a down of football.
Hayden Smith, who played rugby for the England-based Saracens club team, has agreed to terms on a three-year with the Jets, according to his agent Jack Bechta. Smith, was born in Australia and turns 27 next Tuesday, hasn't played a single snap of football, but the Jets are apparently intrigued by his potential.
Smith stands 6-6 and weighs roughly 265 pounds, and his personal coach Tim Brewster said Smith runs a 4.7 in the 40-yard dash. Smith played basketball at Divison II's Metropolitan State in Denver and later fell in love with rugby, first suiting up for the United States National Team before climbing up the international professional ranks.
"I've always said that you have to follow your dream," Smith told USA Today Tuesday. "It's worked out well for me so far, but it's without a doubt the biggest step that I'll be taking and it's something that I'm very excited about."
Brewster thinks Smith's attributes will allow him to make the transition to the NFL. Brewster was a tight end coach in the NFL for the Chargers and Broncos and most recently served as the University of Minnesota's head coach from 2007-10.
Brewster wrote on his Twitter page that Smith is very athletic and football smart.
"I was really amazed at a couple of things," Brewster told USA Today. "First, his ability to assimilate all the information I was throwing at him. Football makes sense to the kid. Second, his work ethic off the charts. He's a way above average athlete for the position. I think the kid has an outstanding future in the National Football League."
Other than fifth-year man Dustin Keller, the Jets are relatively thin at tight end. They have Josh Baker, and Jeff Cumberland is rehabbing an Achilles injury he suffered in late September. Matthew Mulligan signed with the Rams, who of course have former Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer now running this offense.
Smith is the second rugby player the Jets had in the last seven years. In 2005, they signed punter Ben Graham, who was with the team through 2008 and is now with the Lions.
(Note: That's not Smith pictured, by the way. Couldn't find an actual shot of him just yet.)