San Francisco 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne announced his NFL retirement Sunday to pursue a bid to make Fiji’s Olympic rugby team, 82 days before the Rio Games open Aug. 5.
“I am retiring from the NFL because the Fiji rugby sevens team reached out to me about the opportunity to join the team for the upcoming Olympics, and I simply could not pass that chance up,” Hayne said in a press release. “The Olympics has been something I have admired since I was a little boy, and it is an opportunity I feel very similar to me joining the NFL.”
Hayne, 28, played in eight games in his rookie NFL season after spending the previous nine years playing in Australia’s National Rugby League.
Hayne was born in Australia but has a Fijian father and has represented Fiji internationally in the past.
Fiji is the world’s best men’s rugby sevens program, having won the 2014-15 World Series season title and likely to repeat this season with one leg remaining.
Hayne will join Fiji in London for a camp leading into that final World Series leg this week. The camp includes 14 players from which 12 can be chosen for the World Series roster, according to Fiji coach Ben Ryan on Twitter.
The to-be-named Olympic roster will also be 12 players.
“I have no promises he is going to make the 12, but we will see how he goes,” Ryan said in a press release. “He will then come into Fijian camp for the Olympic period. It is a huge challenge for Jarryd, but if he gets into the squad it is only going to be on form, because he is a blinding rugby player.”
Fiji has never won an Olympic medal.
Hayne is not the only athlete with NFL experience eyeing Rio.
New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner is going for the U.S. rugby team, and it was reported last month the head coach said Ebner had a “50-50” chance of making it.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin hopes to make his second straight Olympic team in the long jump. Goodwin leaped a personal-best 8.45 meters on Saturday, the best jump in the world this year.
Former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best is reportedly trying to make the Saint Lucia Olympic track and field team in the 100m.