Australian rugby player Hayden Smith has agreed to a three-year deal with the New York Jets despite having never played American football in his life.
Smith’s agent Jack Bechta confirmed the deal to USA Today on Tuesday, saying he will earn a $355,000 salary, with about $100,000 guaranteed.
"I’ve always said that you have to follow your dream," Smith said. "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."
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Smith is projected to be a tight end.
Smith was set to join Australian basketball team the Sydney Kings in 2008 after a successful stint with Metro State college in Denver, but a potential hoops career stalled when the Kings folded, The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported.
Smith returned to the US and began playing rugby union before being chosen to play for the US in last year’s Rugby World Cup.
From there, he gained a contract to play professional rugby in England’s Aviva premiership for Saracens.
He had tried out with the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and finally the Jets.
"I was really amazed at a couple of things," said former NFL tight ends coach Tim Brewster, who worked with Smith in his quest to join the league.
"First, his ability to assimilate all the information I was throwing at him. Football makes sense to the kid.
"Second, his work ethic is 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."