A former Rugby star turned offensive linemen and seventh-round NFL draft pick, Jordan Mailata has enjoyed one of the least conventional and inspiring routes to the NFL. Born in Australia, the 6-foot-8, 345 pound converted athlete has been a pleasant surprise in Philly.
When the Eagles selected the larger-than-life Aussie with the 233rd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, Mailata had never played a single game of American football. In fact, football so was novel to Mailata that he didn’t even know how to suit up when he arrived at his first Eagles camp in 2018.
“When I came into rookie minicamp, I said, ‘What are these?’” Mailata said in an interview with the Guardian. “They said, ‘They’re your pads.’ I said, ‘Well, where do they go?’ They showed me the shorts, and they said, ‘They go here and here and here.’ And I was like, ‘Oh! Damn!’”
Mailata also told The Guardian that the first American football game he ever attended live came as a member of the Eagles.
“I was sitting on the sideline,” he said with a grin, “and I was like, ‘Shit. I’m on the same team that’s playing!’ It was very surreal. Who would have ever thought that the first-ever game I went to was after I made the league? It’s kind of funny it turned out that way. It’s not even just about learning the game. It’s about doing certain things. Just to have that new experience is a unique experience.”https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/sep/26/jordan-mailata-nfl-rugby-league-philadelphia-eagles-nrl
Now, roughly three years later, Mailata is doing far more than merely spectating the game. A few years removed from not even knowing how to strap up his helmet, Mailata has grown into one of the Eagles’ most consistent, impactful players.
Once buried in the depth chart behind former Eagles legend Jason Peters and fellow 2018 draftee Andre Dillard, Mailata has excelled since taking over as the Eagles’ starting left tackle last year. His growth as a pass blocker is nothing short of spectacular and to see him get acclimated to professional football so quickly is almost miraculous.
Reaching the NFL is no easy task and thriving in the league is even more difficult, but Mailata has made both feats seem fairly routine.
Mailata, 24, has graded out as one of the best run-blocking and pass-blocking offensive linemen in the league. Through 13 starts this season, he has allowed just three sacks in over 800 offensive snaps played. That is an impressive figure for any offensive tackle, but especially one that was introduced to football less than a half-decade ago.
Furthermore, on the backs of his and the Eagles offensive linemen stellar play, the Birds have enjoyed a ton of success on the ground. Through Week 16, Philly leads the entire NFL in rushing yards with 2,448- a figure that would likely not be reached without the superb performance from Mailata.
For his efforts, Jordan Mailata was thought of by many as worthy of a Pro Bowl nod this season. He was ultimately left off the Pro Bowl roster, both as a starter and alternate, but seemed more upset that his teammate Lane Johnson was omitted from the roster.
“I’ll be honest, man, I haven’t really given much thought to the Pro Bowl snub. I care more for Lane,” he said. “I think Lane’s one of the best tackles in this game. I know, for me, if I look at myself in the mirror, I know I have a long way to go before I ever make those Pro Bowls. There’s so much stuff that I need to clean up on my own tape. If there’s one tackle I model myself after, it’s Lane. I just feel for Lane in that regard, more for him than myself.”https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/sports/nbcsports/eagles-jordan-mailata-upset-about-lane-johnsons-pro-bowl-snub-than-his-own/3088746/
Pro Bowler or not, the Eagles have to be thrilled with the development of the former seventh-rounder. It is incredibly rare that a prospect drafted that late sticks around for more than a few years, and even more uncommon for such a player to blossom into a star at his position.
Mailata, though, has done exactly that and has put an exclamation point on what was already such an incredible story for him.
Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire