While I am rooting for UDFA Tarren Lloyd to make the team as the 3rd TE behind Keller & Cumberland (Josh Baker is listed as FB/TE, an also will make the team), I am very intrigued by Hayden Smith's potential. Here's a good read...
For Jets Rookie, a Crash Course in Football
At 26, Hayden Smith decided to abandon a promising rugby career to relocate to the United States from England so he could learn to play tight end for the Jets.
CORTLAND, N.Y. — Hayden Smith hails from a magnificent part of this planet, the Blue Mountains of Australia, about 90 minutes west of Sydney. A national park brimming with gorges and waterfalls and breathtaking lookouts abuts his postage stamp of a hometown, Bullaburra, where he flourished in basketball, dabbled in cricket and enjoyed a pleasant upbringing with doting parents and two younger brothers. There is nowhere else he would rather have grown up, he said.
And yet, from time to time Smith wonders: what if he had been born in a football hotbed like Texas or Ohio or Florida? For sure he would have played as a youngster, in high school, in college, chasing a traditional path to a roster spot with the Jets instead of the journey described by friends as “bananas,” “unheard-of” and “absolutely crazy.”
At 26, Smith decided to abandon a promising rugby career to relocate to the United States from England — his third transoceanic move for his third sport in eight years — so he could learn to play what is widely regarded as the most demanding and nuanced game in the world at its highest level. In April, the Jets signed Smith to a three-year contract, hoping to mold a 6-foot-6, 255-pound athlete into a viable tight end. In May, at their rookie minicamp, Smith put on a helmet for the first time.
“I came into this wanting to be successful, not, ‘Oh, we’ll see what happens,’ ” Smith said. “I’m 100 percent committed to football. It’s something that I desperately wanted to do, and I didn’t want to live my life with any regrets. I couldn’t live with myself if I never gave it a try.”
Since attending his first game, Baltimore at Denver on Oct. 9, 2006, when he barely knew that a possession consisted of four downs, Smith has been enraptured by what he called “the very physical form of chess.” In embarking on this quest, Smith, now 27, appears guided by the philosophy of the British mountaineer George Mallory, who, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, quipped, “Because it’s there.” The lure of blazing a trail — not a raging ego or a plea for attention — is what motivates Smith, same as it did four years ago.
On a whim, after his basketball scholarship at Division II Metropolitan State in Denver expired, he played his first game of rugby since childhood. Within weeks, he was added to the United States national team, the USA Eagles. Within a few months, he had signed with Saracens, a top club in England.
This challenge, as Smith readily acknowledged, will be much more difficult. But in many ways, his background in basketball and rugby has prepared him.
“I’ve always said of a coach, ‘You can’t put in what God left out,’ ” said Scott Johnson, the former USA Eagles coach who discovered Smith at that club rugby match outside Denver in 2008. And Smith, particularly for a man his size, possessed exceptional leaping skills and hands so soft that a former coach at Saracens, Paul Gustard, compared them to a pillow.
“What set him apart was how strong he was in the air, how he fought for the ball,” Gustard said. “If someone else tried to snatch the ball away, Hayden would never lose that fight. He would always take the ball down.”
It is a special talent, and one that is valued just as much in the N.F.L., where raw projects can morph into elite tight ends. One of them, Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers, was shaped by Tim Brewster. At the request of Smith’s agent, Jack Bechta, Brewster flew to California in March to spend a week tutoring Smith.
About eight months earlier, before deciding to pursue an N.F.L. career, Smith walked into Bechta’s office wearing a rugby uniform of short shorts and a tight sleeveless shirt. Bechta said he immediately thought of one person: Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots’ hulking tight end with power forward size but wide receiver speed. By the end of their week together, a week loaded with footwork drills and route concepts and defensive-front recognition, Brewster was referring to Smith as Gronk.
“There’s no way to really express how far behind the eight ball he is,” Brewster said. “But let’s think outside the box a little bit: because he’s never done it, does that mean he can’t?”
Proceeding to answer his own question, Brewster said, “I’m here to tell you, I believe he’ll make it happen.”
Mike Devlin, the Jets’ tight ends coach, added: “It’s going to click. I just know it.”
Only seven Australians have played in the N.F.L., according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and six have been punters. The other, defensive tackle Colin Scotts, played at the University of Hawaii. As he mulled how to teach Smith, Devlin operated under the assumption that his new student knew nothing about football. “And what he thought he knew,” Devlin said, “he didn’t know.”
Devlin’s first tactic? Reviewing the proper stance. Smith showed great aptitude at Saracens for absorbing formations and principles, but rugby has no playbooks.
“A little daunting,” Smith said, as is studying the intricacies of what is, besides quarterback, perhaps the most complex position on offense, with blocks and protections and routes and motions and shifts.
He peppers Dustin Keller, the starting tight end and his training camp roommate, with questions — “there’s no Cover 3 in rugby,” Keller said — and then analyzes videotape of Keller’s release off the line of scrimmage. Devlin watched film of rugby and studied its terminology in hope of relating phrases or concepts to football, but that didn’t work. Gradually, he realized that barking commands at Smith like, “Get physical on the sideline when you’re on the ball” would produce an unintended effect. Taking his orders literally, Smith would hit teammates out of bounds.
“If you generalize about Australians, they’re predisposed for contact,” said Mike Dunlap, the Charlotte Bobcats’ new coach, who coached three years in Australia before recruiting Smith to Metropolitan State. “I think Hayden fit that to the Nth degree.”
The physicality of football appealed to Smith as a boy, but not as much its spectacle. When he would watch Dallas Cowboys games on television, what lodged in his memory were not Emmitt Smith touchdowns or Deion Sanders interceptions but camera shots of a rowdy, pulsating crowd. He longed to perform in that environment. He vowed that someday he would.
Smith is more likely to land on the Jets’ practice squad than their 53-man roster, but he envisions running onto the MetLife Stadium field on Sept. 9, for the season opener against Buffalo. The swamps of New Jersey do not compare with the beauty of Bullaburra, but Smith has a hunch that there is nowhere else he would rather be.
This dude seems to have a lot going for him. Great size, athleticism, coordination, physicality etc it'll take time for him to get the nuances down but he is highly regarded by the TE coaches etc so he definitely has the potential to be productive he prolly just needs patience and extra coaching to bring him up to speed. This is one investment that could pay off handsomely for the Jets if they play it right