NRL's Hayne aims to fulfill NFL dream

Australian superstar Jarryd Hayne quit his rugby league team Wednesday to pursue a career in the NFL.

The Australian international, who won the National Rugby League's highest individual accolade -- the Dally M Medal -- for a second time just last month, has been given a conditional release by his club, the Parramatta Eels, to follow his NFL dream.

Hayne, 26, said he could not let the opportunity to play in the NFL pass him by.

"For the past 24 months I've been thinking about having a crack in the NFL, and over the last 12 months I've been seriously considering it," Hayne said in a letter published on the Eels' website.

"Today I can officially announce that I will be heading to the United States to pursue an opportunity to play American Football."

Most Australians to try their hands in the NFL have been punters, but as a speedy rugby league player, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Hayne likely is thinking about a position that involves a little more contact.

Renowned for his acceleration, Hayne said he believes he has the skills to make it as either a punt returner or kick returner.

"I believe I have the speed, I'm a quick learner, I feel things out really quickly," he said. "I have no doubt it's going to be tough. Ultimately it's a 12-month plan, going over there and trying to make a train-on team. For me to do that, I need to start preparing for that around January or February."

In June, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush told Fox Sports Australia that Hayne could play in the NFL immediately if he ever switched sports.

"He actually looks like an NFL running back. Looks like he could come play with us tomorrow," Bush said when shown video of Hayne in action. "He's fast, strong and ... wow! Look at that hit. That's an NFL football hit. I like this guy."

Hayne walked away from one of the highest-paying rugby league contracts in the world. He visited the United States in September to look at the Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington's facilities on a study trip with the Eels.

Australia native Jesse Williams currently is on the Seahawks' injured reserve, although the defensive tackle first played college football at Alabama.

In 2006, rugby league player Willie Mason had a trial with the New York Jets, but it came to nothing.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL, and at my age, this is my one and only chance at having a crack at playing there," Hayne wrote.

"I'm excited about the potential opportunities that lie ahead. I've known the deadline has been looming for me to make this call, and I believe the right time is now."

Hayne's agent, Wayne Beavis, told The Associated Press that his player's "power and speed'' make Hayne perfect for the NFL and "he'll even be able to wear a helmet and pads." In rugby league, no helmets are worn, and shoulder gear is lightweight and optional.

"I'm so passionate about the challenge that lies ahead for me, not only as an athlete but more so as a person," Hayne said. "It's the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. I'm leaving my teammates, friends, and most importantly my family; but for me to grow as an athlete and a person I feel this is the right step to take."

ESPN FC's Mike Wise and The Associated Press contributed to this report.