The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t let a little thing like experience stop them from drafting former Australia rugby player Jordan Mailata, and it’s easy to see why.
Mailata, who’s never played a single down of organized football in his life, goes a whopping 6-8, 346 pounds. The Eagles made a deal with the New England Patriots Sunday that allowed them to select Mailata with their final pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. In return, the Birds sent sent the 250th pick and a 2019 seventh-rounder to New England.
Picked up as an offensive tackle prospect, Philadelphia appears to be banking on Mailata’s rugby background translating to the gridiron. Draft pundits say that based on video of his days with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, Mailata is not only a monster of a man, he’s surprisingly fast and athletic for his size.
According to ESPN, Mailata’s path to the NFL began last summer when his agent created a highlight reel aimed at attracting other rugby cubs, but he also decided to send it to someone he knew that’s associated with the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. The highlight tape raised some eyebrows and several months later, Mailata was selected to train at IMG in Florida, where he’d been working out four-and-a-half hours a day for close to four months heading into the draft.
“The last three or four months have not been easy at all,” Mailata said about his training regimen. “Mentally challenging as well as physically. Trying to understand the basics and the fundamentals of football has been a great task. Little knowledge before I came in, but I can happily say now that I can understand concepts and a beginning to have a step in the right direction.”