Jonah Lomu put rugby on the map in the professional age, but his legacy will be seen as much through the things he did when he was nowhere near a rugby ball, former Wallabies centre Tim Horan says.
Horan played with Lomu in a Barbarians match against Scotland in 2001 and an attacking pattern was eschewed by the All Blacks legend in favour of one simple tactic.
“I was lucky to play a couple of test matches with the barbarians with him and we had a move in the back line,” he said on Fox Sports News.
“I tried to explain to Jonah what the move was and this was five minutes into a test match against Scotland and Jonah, who was my roommate at the time said, ‘Timmy. Timmy just pass me the ball’,”
“I did - he scored three tries in the test match against Scotland, with four or five players hanging off him.”
Horan saw first hand the destructive winger who inspired a generation of rugby players and changed not just the way his position was played but its entire prototype.
Horan remembers Lomu’s generosity outside of the rugby field just as vividly, a sphere in which he had almost as big an impact on youth as he did when overpowering oppositions.
“Off the field I think is where his legacy is with the amount of work he did with charities and people in the game, outside the game, with children,” he said.
“ He was a real pied piper of children who played the game of rugby.
"And Jonah was so giving with his time to make sure he gave time to everyone.
"He put rugby on the map globally when the game turned professional in 1996."
Former Wallabies captain George Gregan was a long-time friend and combatant of Lomu and has a permanent scar of his on-field battles.
“I still remember. I’ve got scar tissue in my left hamstring from when he ran over me and he almost broke my leg,” he said on Fox Sports News.
“That was a rugby game in Canberra stadium and i jokingly said that to him i said you know i was wearing that thermoskin for the next couple of years because of you?”
“And he just sort of said no worries bro,” you should’ve just got out of the way.
“I said, ‘Jonah, everyone tries to get out of your way but sometimes you just can’t.’
That exchange was surely reflective of the thoughts of many of Lomu’s opponents, left with tread marks from the bullocking runs of man Gregan describes as a ‘gentle giant’.
“He was that sort of a guy,” he said.
“He was a gentle giant but when he went on to the field he was an absolute competitor and he had a great way of inspiring the teams that he played with.
“More importantly, he’s a real gentleman.”