24 year old Jordan Mailata has come a long way.
15874km to be precise from Redfern Oval in South Sydney Australia to Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia USA.
“This is one of the great Australian sport stories.”
“When he arrived at the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2017 Mailata was 6 foot eight and 166 kg but got his weight down to 140kg to play in the NYC (National Youth Competition).”
“When I first saw him I couldn’t believe how big he was” says club legend John Sutton.
“I had to go & get Sam (Burgess) to come & have a look, he was massive.”
Like the majority of Aussies, Mailata knew next to nothing about the NFL having previously only “watched a few games & some highlights.”
To Jordan Mailata the NFL was just one “big mystery” as he put it.
Mailata played rugby league for the Bankstown Bulls in Sydney as a young bloke & his major opposition in that competition came from a Mascot side coached by my cost host on Rabbitohs Radio Darren Brown.
“Our champion Mascot team had my son Jaiden & talented players like Siosifa Talakai, Reimis Smith & Billy Magoulias who have all gone on to play in the NRL but back then Jordan was a damaging runner of the ball, hard to tackle & always the biggest bloke on the field.”
Mailatas’ playing contract at the Rabbitohs was $12k & a new offer was on the table.
Ultimately, Mailata declined the contract from the Rabbitohs. There was no bad sentiment between Mailata and the club after the contract offer, as Mailata stated “They gave me a chance so without them I wouldn’t be here.”
After seeing clips of him playing rugby league, NFL executives invited Mailata to try out for their International Player Pathway Program.
So Jordan took off to the USA to try & make it in the NFL.
Mailata landed in an intensive training program at the IMG Academy learning off people like offensive line coach Paul Dunn (yes same name as the Bulldogs legend).
Mailatas’ progress impressed team scouts across the USA with his amazing agility for a man his size & there was interest from Washington, Pittsburg & others but it was still somewhat of a long shot when the Philadelphia Eagles traded up in the 7th round of 2018 NFL draft to pick him.
In around 100 years of NFL drafts no foreign player with zero experience had ever been drafted.
The Eagles did exactly that & to add an extra layer of intrigue he was selected to play in the specialist position at left tackle made famous around the world by the movie ‘The Blind Side’ which tells the Michael Oher story.
That movie was the only other experience with the NFL that Jordan Mailata could recall & incredibly there is a similarity in both Oher & Mailatas’ journey to American footballs biggest stage.
Michael Oher famously rose from poverty to play left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens with the help of Leigh Anne Tuohy & her family. (Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for the role.)
Jordan Mailata collapsed twice at training as a 17 year old & it was discovered that he needed two heart operations.
The chances of a young Michael & Jordan making an NFL team 53 man roster then gaining a starting spot were extremely remote, almost zero..but they did it. (yes I did just use the words Michael & Jordan in this paragraph.)
In 2018 before the NFL draft Jordan Mailata said “Even though this (game) is all foreign to me I will catch up. I didn’t come to take part man, I come to take over.”
His contract now is worth $1.2 million but a major upgrade is on the way with the highest paid players in the position earning over $20 million per annum.
49ers left tackle Trent Williams earns $23,010,000 per year.
Mailata has won the coveted starting left tackle role protecting quarterback Jalen Hurts blindside. Jordans’ job is to make sure Hurts doesn’t get hurt.
In another unbelievable twist he beat 2019 No.1 draft pick (22nd overall) Andre Dillard for the job.
In the 2018 draft Mailata was taken 233rd overall.
This sensational turn of events just highlights Mailatas massive achievement.
Dillard went to college at powerhouse football school Washington State. He started 29 games at left tackle for the Washington State Cougars who compete in the top level NCAA Division 1.
Around the same time Jordan Mailata was playing under 20s rugby league for the Bunnies in Sydney & had never played a second of American football.
My mate Paul Rigoni has been to Philly & loves the place. He said –
“Don’t forget to mention in your story that Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love & the great fighting city of working class people like South Sydney.”
“I know everything about Philly!! So much American history there. It’s where the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Philly was the original capital of the US not New York before Washington DC was built.”
“Philly is an awesome city where people love their sport, both teams (Phillies & Eagles) previously played at the old Veterans Stadium in south Philly but it was a really bad area lots of crime so they basically redeveloped the whole area & built three new Stadiums.” (South Philadelphia Sports Complex).
“It’s a bit like Homebush now but it’s only two minutes from the Philadelphia CBD with just two train stops.”
“Jordan could be mates with the Aussie Ben Simmons because he plays for the 76s.”
Mailata made his NFL debut in the 2020 season & if the Eagles start winning games when the 2021 season starts next week, I’m pretty sure that Jordan Mailata will have no shortage of mates in his new home town.
By Steve Mavin