When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Australian rugby player, Jordan Mailata, with the 233rd pick of the 2018 NFL draft many NFL experts saw it as a wasted draft pick. The chances of making an NFL roster with no college or high school football experience is almost impossible. But Jordan Mailata did just that as a rookie.
Clearly, Eagles general manager, Howie Roseman and head coach, Doug Pederson, had faith that offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland, could help mold Jordan into a starting NFL 0ffensive lineman. Last Sunday night against the San Francisco 49ers, that vision became a reality when the 23 year old got his first start in the NFL.
Jordan Mailata and the Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Journey To the NFL
Jordan’s story is inspiring. When he was just 17, he fainted during a rugby workout, and needed emergency surgery to repair the upper and lower chambers of his heart. He took a year off from sports, but returned to play rugby in the Australian NRL for The South Sydney Rabbittohs, a professional rugby league team, once co-owned by actor Russell Crowe.
It’s very rare that a 6′ 8’’, 346 pound human being is able to move like Jordan Mailata. In this age of social media, it wasn’t long before he was an internet sensation. Incredible clips of him running through defenders in the NRL, which showcased his rare combination of size, balance, speed and strength, made their rounds on the internet. He’s another great athlete of Polynesian descent, with his family immigrating to Australia from Samoa.
It wasn’t long before NFL executives saw the internet clips, which led to them inviting Jordan to train through The NFL pathway program, at the IMG academy in Florida. Prior to that training in Florida, Jordan had never played a down of football and admitted that his knowledge of the game was minimal. When asked which position he wanted to play, he said that he’d like to play offensive tackle because he was familiar with the Michael Oher story and the movie, The Blind side.
After showing much improvement during his time in Florida, Jordan was drafted in the seventh round by the Eagles. He was drafted as a project that could improve technically with coaching. Based on Sunday night’s performance this goal appears to have been achieved. He’s a long way from being the finished product, but, it’s very difficult not to be inspired by his incredible journey to the NFL.
Next Man up Mentality
The Philadelphia Eagles can only go as far as Carson Wentz can take them. For Wentz to be great, the offensive line has to find some continuity. Center, Jason Kelce is the key in that process. Kelce is arguably the best center in the NFL and his play has been incredible despite the loss of the valuable starters around him. He’s truly become the heartbeat of this offense and he’s so valuable to the team as a leader and to Carson Wentz as a signal caller with his protections. The same can be said about Lane Johnson as a player. They both have to stay healthy and allow this offensive line to find some continuity. It’s vital at this point.
The Philadelphia Eagles fan base is arguably the most unforgiving in the NFL (they threw snowballs at Santa Clause one Christmas). Last year the team limped into the playoffs. They were decimated with injury but battled well against the New Orleans Saints despite losing in the division round of the playoffs. The team found a way to stay in the game, led by veteran quarterback, Josh McCown, who somehow played through a torn hamstring injury. This is a team that embodies the city’s tough attitude, as does Jordan Mailata, and fans love them for that.