The Jets this afternoon have announced the signing of Hayden Smith, the former professional rugby union player who will be working as a tight end in the NFL. Word of Smith's agreement to a contract with the Jets circulated during the past week but didn't become official until today.
Smith (6'7", 240), a native of Penrith, Australia, was first noticed stateside for his basketball skills playing for Metro State College in Denver. He played three seasons for the Roadrunners, an NCAA Division II powerhouse, from 2005-08, and averaged 3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds a game as a senior.
After graduating from Metro State with his degree in finance, Smith's sporting interests turned to professional rugby. He is listed on the rosters of the English club Saracens, the 2011 Aviva Premiership champion, and the U.S. Eagles national team.
Smith, who will celebrate his 27th birthday this week, has never played football but had been training under Tim Brewster, the former University of Minnesota head football coach, and had worked out for the Jets and four NFC teams in the past several months. He told The Telegraph that he ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash, and he's used his fine size, leaping ability and physicality to good advantage in rugby. Soon we'll see how he makes the transition to the NFL.