How a struggling Australian footy player switched codes and made his name in America

The NRL‘s loss has been the NFL’s gain as a former rugby league prospect is set to debut in America’s biggest football competition this season. 

Jordan Mailata, 21, has overcome his first challenge by making the final 53 man roster for 2018 Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles.

It was only last year, while his new team were marching to their championship glory, that Mailata was handed a $5000 contract offer from Russell Crowe’s South Sydney Rabbitohs to play for their reserve feeder team, the North Sydney Bears.

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The NRL's loss has been the NFL's gain as a former rugby league prospect Jordan Mailata (pictured) is set to debut in America's biggest football competition this season

The NRL's loss has been the NFL's gain as a former rugby league prospect Jordan Mailata (pictured) is set to debut in America's biggest football competition this season

The NRL’s loss has been the NFL’s gain as a former rugby league prospect Jordan Mailata (pictured) is set to debut in America’s biggest football competition this season

Jordan Mailata, 21, has overcome his first challenge by making the final 53 man roster for 2018 Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Mailata, 21, has overcome his first challenge by making the final 53 man roster for 2018 Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles

Jordan Mailata, 21, has overcome his first challenge by making the final 53 man roster for 2018 Super Bowl champions the Philadelphia Eagles

He was told if he could strip a further 15kg from his huge frame and lasted longer than 10 minutes at a time on the field then the club would ‘consider’ a fulltime contract,The Sydney Morning Herald reported. 

The implication was that South’s felt Mailata was too big for top tier rugby league and would be vulnerable to smaller players in the later stages of the game.  

‘It wasn’t a self-proclaimed label. It was what I was told. I had to cop it on the chin and weigh up the options. They wanted me to play second grade, and there were a lot of second-grade contracts up for grabs at different clubs,’ he said.

Last year Mailata was offered a $5000 contract by the South Sydney Rabbitohs to play for their feeder team, the North Sydney Bears (pictured with family at training)

Last year Mailata was offered a $5000 contract by the South Sydney Rabbitohs to play for their feeder team, the North Sydney Bears (pictured with family at training)

Last year Mailata was offered a $5000 contract by the South Sydney Rabbitohs to play for their feeder team, the North Sydney Bears (pictured with family at training)

‘Personally, I just wanted a full time contract so I could develop. They wanted me to lose 15 more kilos and it was impossible because I was at 10 percent body fat. That wasn’t healthy at all.’

When his rugby league prospects started to look bleak Mailata’s management put together a highlights video to shop the hulking player around to potential rugby union clubs. 

However the highlight reel made its way onto the desks of some NFL scouts. 

‘My agent knew some NFL people who ran this international program and I was fortunate enough to get their attention,’ he told NFL Draft Live in April. 

‘They flew me out to LA last November and I worked out for them and I was fortunate enough to get on the program.’   

And then came the 2018 NFL draft in April where he was selected in the 7th round by the Eagles as the 233rd overall pick, on a four-year deal worth $3.4 million

'They flew me out to LA last November and I worked out for them and I was fortunate enough to get on the program,' he said (pictured with is parents at the airport)

'They flew me out to LA last November and I worked out for them and I was fortunate enough to get on the program,' he said (pictured with is parents at the airport)

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‘They flew me out to LA last November and I worked out for them and I was fortunate enough to get on the program,’ he said (pictured with is parents at the airport)

The NFL website had Mailata as a 50-50 prospect of making the NFL roster, something he has now achieved with the Eagles

The NFL website had Mailata as a 50-50 prospect of making the NFL roster, something he has now achieved with the Eagles

The NFL website had Mailata as a 50-50 prospect of making the NFL roster, something he has now achieved with the Eagles

The NFL website had Mailata as a 50-50 prospect of making the NFL roster, something he has now achieved with the Eagles. 

He is set to play at left tackle in the offensive line, an important position based on its coverage of the team’s quarterback, and a position where his 203cm, 157kg frame is a major asset. 

‘Who would’ve known that a boy from Bankstown could go this far, you never know unless you try. It’s surreal. But I can’t pinch myself because my hands are sore from training,’ he told The Sydney Morning Herald. 

AUSTRALIAN PLAYERS IN THE NFL 

 

Adam Gotsis: Defensive End for Denver Broncos

Lachlan Edwards: Punter for New Your Jets 

Jordan Berry: Punter for Pittsburgh Steelers 

Jordan Mailata: Offensive tackle for Philadelphia Eagles 

Michael Dickson: Punter for Seattle Seahawks 

Cam Johnstone: Punter for Philadelphia Eagles 

 

NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein analysed Mailata for NFL.com

‘Mailata has never played a down of American football so attempting to learn the tackle position and perform it at the highest level makes this an extremely daunting challenge,’ he wrote. 

‘What Mailata does have is rare size and physical gifts with the movement skills that give him a chance at a very challenging position.’ 

Mailata also thanked South Sydney for offering him a chance at making the team and said without them ‘I wouldn’t be here’.

The Eagles first game of the season is against the Atlanta Falcons on Friday morning EST, the final team line up is yet to be announced but Mailata is expected to debut later in the season.  

The Eagles drafted him knowing he would be a long term prospect that would not be rushed into the deep end, according to Philadelphia vice-president of football operations Howard Roseman. 

Linkhienalouca.com

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