Jarryd Hayne was hailed the story of the National Football League pre-season as he excited fans with his elusive running for a second straight game.
The former rugby league star boosted his NFL career prospects with some scintillating punt returns and decent runs as his San Francisco 49ers downed the Dallas Cowboys 23-6 at home on Sunday.
Afterwards 49ers coach Jim Tomasula again tried to deflect pressure from the Australian rookie, who is trying to win a spot on the club’s final 53-man roster.
Asked if Hayne had already shown enough to demand inclusion, Tomasula said: “Obviously the guy is doing really well and making a great case for himself.
“That’s the story. He’s never played the game and is in the conversation to make the 53-man roster. That speaks to who he is.”
Hayne, who was the focus of pre-game television hype, wasted no time in putting his stamp on the game, catching a punt over his shoulder while running backwards and then turning up field for a classy 27-yard return after the opening Cowboys drive.
He backed it up with a 34-yard run on the next Dallas punt and was only stopped from running the length by Cowboys punter Chris Jones.
When the 27-year-old rookie took his third return for another 23-yard gain, a television commentator declared: “It’s going to be hard not to put that guy on this football team”.
All three of Hayne’s punt returns measured longer than the 49ers’ team high (23 yards) last season.
Hayne was then given a crack at running back to open the second half and after a few short gains burst free with a 34-yard run on his fourth carry down the left sideline.
His eight carries in total netted a game-high 54 yards for runners.
He even played on special teams defence, limiting a Cowboys return by getting the first touch on a Dallas returner.
His efforts prompted a tv commentator to declare: “This is the story of the pre-season in pro football it really is. This guy has never played football before.”
Hayne was asked in an on-field interview if there was anything he didn’t do.
“I don’t play quarterback,” he joked.
“No, I’m just grateful for the opportunity, wherever I get the opportunity on the field I’m there.
“I am still getting used to lowering my pads and running off the right blocks. I am just trying my best every week and studying and really enjoying the process.
“I am over here having a crack and doing my best.
“I’m still a long way off from where I want to be. I want to go into games confident that everything I do, I’m comfortable with.
“People might be surprised in how I’m going but I’ve got confidence in my ability.”
Hayne’s efforts continued to impress the 49ers’ star quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
“He’s constantly improving and building a strong resume in a short time,” said Kaepernick.
“He’s very calm and confident in what he’s doing, and it shows.”
Hayne’s efforts against the Cowboys followed his 63 yards on five carries at running back and 120 all-purpose yards in week one’s 23-10 loss to the Houston Texans.
The 49ers travel to Denver to play the Broncos in their third pre-season game on Saturday.