One year ago on Oct. 15, Jarryd Hayne shocked a nation when he announced his intention to leave the National Rugby League to pursue a career in the NFL.
At the time, many people in Australia questioned the decision to give up stardom Down Under for obscurity in America.
But now 12 months later, Hayne's journey can only be described as a resounding success given his zero prior experience in the sport. The newcomer to American football burst onto the scene with the San Francisco 49ers in the preseason and won a job on the 53-man roster as the team's punt returner.
Seeing how far Hayne has come in just a year, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr. was asked how much better he believes the Australian can get over the next 12 months.
"It's up to Jarryd. How much time is he willing to put in as far as studying the game and just the maturation process?" McGaughey said. "Next year he might be leading the league in punt returns. Who knows?
"He has that kind of ability to get those big averages because he's a big, strong runner. And he does a good job making people miss in space. So he has the ability to be a very good punt returner."
Through five games this season, Hayne has returned seven punts for 72 yards with a long of 37 yards. He's also run the ball eight times for 25 yards.
Hayne didn't have many opportunities on Sunday against the New York Giants, but he did record an 8-yard run on 3rd-and-1 to set up an Anquan Boldin touchdown reception. And on his lone punt return of the evening, Hayne hauled in the kick near the sideline and turned up field for a 16-yard gain.
"He did a good job. He caught the ball, set it up and got vertical," McGaughey said. "When those situations come, you've just got to take advantage of them. They don't come very often nowadays."
Looking ahead to the remainder of the 2015 season, McGaughey voiced confidence in Hayne continuing to improve. He just has to stay on the path that he's already on.
"This is his fifth game ever playing football in his life, and I think sometimes we lose track of that," McGaughey said. "Each week he's getting comfortable. He's starting to understand the game a little bit more on offense and special teams."