Jets announce signing of rugby star

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
3:20
PM ET
The Jets made it official on Saturday, announcing the signing of Australian rugby star Hayden Smith.

Say this about the Jets: They're not afraid to think outside the box.

This is a no-risk signing. If he can't cut it, no harm, no foul.

On paper, Smith has the measurable to be an NFL tight end -- 6-foot-6, 265 pounds. He reportedly runs the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, exceptional for a man his size. People who know him say he's bright and will be able to assimilate a complex NFL offense.

And you know he's tough. Anybody who ever watched a rugby match knows that you don't belong on that field if you're not one tough hombre.

That said, it's important to maintain realistic expectations. It would be a reach to say Smith will make the 53-man roster. Remember, the man never has played a down of football, and you're stretching if you think he's going to come in, win a job and suit up on Sundays. He probably doesn't know how to put on shoulder pads.

Tight end is a tough position to learn. It's mentally challenging because you have to block, catch, shift, go in motion ... it's a multi-dimensional job. Obviously, Smith has the physical tools and, presumably, the temperament to play special teams, but that, too, isn't a gimme.

If Smith shows he has something, he can spent a year on the practice squad, developing his skills. He's not going to walk in and become the next Antonio Gates. Everybody is looking for the next Gates -- the Jets have tried in recent years by signing former college basketball players -- but it's a 1,000-to-1 shot.

For now, sit back and enjoy the show. If nothing else, Smith will be a compelling subplot on "Hard Knocks" this summer -- assuming there is a "Hard Knocks" 2.0, which is looking likely.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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