It’s not everyday that you come across a 6-foot-6, 250-plus pound tight end who is extremely athletic, but the New York Jets might have just stumbled upon one.
Hayden Smith, a former rugby star in England, was signed by the Jets last season with zero experience with the sport, but has transformed himself into a good football player who might get a starting job this upcoming season.
Smith, as can be imagined, had some difficulty knowing where to line up, remembering his assignments on each play, and knowing when to get off the line. However, his rookie season allowed him time to develop, and he worked really hard in the off-season so he would be able to focus on just playing the game.
“Coming in the second time around, not having to worry about the game of football itself, it takes a lot of thinking out of it,” Smith told ESPN New York.
Smith adopted the nickname “Aussie” early in camp last year because of his Australian heritage. He spent most of last year on the practice squad, with some appearances with the team towards the end of the season. However, during OTA’s, Smith performed extremely well, opening eyes with his football IQ improvement as well as acrobatic receptions, which now puts him in the conversation for starting tight end.
“I feel like I’m at the stage where I can contribute,” he said. “My primary goal is to help to Jets win football games.”
In addition to improving on the field, Smith has also developed relationships with the team, coordinating a “coffee klatsch” in the Jets locker room. Smith brews coffee after practice, keeping his machine in his locker, and serves his teammates, who then sit in a circle and just talk. This is Smith’s way of creating team chemistry, and if that’s what it takes to get this disheveled team together, go with it.
Smith has the size and athleticism that is required for a tight end in this day in age of the NFL. If he continues to improve the way he has been, there is no question why he should not be considered to be starting tight end come week one.