Aussie ‘freak of nature’ stuns US
AUSSIE Jordan Mailata is the real deal.
The 21-year-old former South Sydney rugby league product is now on the verge of cracking the Philadelphia Eagles' final 53-man active roster before the NFL season starts next Friday (AEST).
It is pure fairytale - coming just months after he was picked up by the Eagles with the No. 233 pick in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
He was raw and talented, a development project that the Eagles reportedly hoped would pay off down the road.
That day may already be here with reports indicating the Aussie is likely to be selected in the Eagles' final roster - to be named on Sunday morning (AEST) - after doing enough in his brief on-field appearance during the Eagles' 10-9 win over the New York Jets in their final game of the pre-season to warrant selection.
The offensive lineman got time at left tackle and still wowed Eagles commentators, despite giving away two penalties and getting caught out of position, according to some.
They were all completely spellbound by the hulking Aussie and his 157kg, 2.03m frame.
Former offensive lineman Ross Tucker even predicted Mailata will go on to become a star of the game and go All Pro - an honour decided by the NFL media for the best players in each position every season.
"I no longer think 21 year old Aussie LT Jordan Mailata is going to be a starting LT in the NFL," Tucker tweeted.
"I think he's going to be All-Pro. Borderline obsessed with this dude at this point. This is crazy. Eagles are going to go right from Peters to Peters Jr."
Tucker was far from the only one to get carried away.
Mailata's teammate and Eagles' offensive tackle Lane Johnson described Mailata as a "freak of nature" after the game.
"He's just a baby. It's gonna be scary what he's gonna be able to do in the next few years," Johnson said.
The Aussie then brought himself right back down to Earth, admitting he still has a long way to go - despite taking questions about his potential inclusion in the team's final 53-man squad.
Mailata reportedly could take the position of former first round draft pick Chance Warmack when the Eagles cut their squad back to 53 players on Sunday morning.
The Inquirer's Les Bowen wrote Mailata and fellow 2018 draft pick Matt Pryor will probably force their way into the final squad.
"Mailata and Pryor - the Eagles' sixth and seventh-round draft picks - have shown more than enough promise to warrant their places," Brown wrote.
"They're developmental lineman who won't open the season on the active game-day roster. Their inexperience, especially if starters were to suffer injuries, would be the argument for keeping Warmack. The Eagles will try to deal the former first-round guard, but the film this preseason hasn't been good.
"Now it seems the Eagles might not be able to get him (Mailata) through waivers and onto the practice squad when cutdowns arrive this weekend. If Mailata is on the roster, a guard or tackle who would have made it otherwise won't be."
The Inquirer's Paul Domowitch wrote after Philly's 10-9 win over the Jets that Mailata has given Philly's coaches an incredible headache.
"Rookie offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, the former Aussie rugby player, is going to be on the team's season-opening roster. Which means the only way Warmack makes the team is if they decide to keep 10 offensive linemen, which seems unlikely," he said.
The dilemma they are facing is that if they drop Mailata to the practice squad, any NFL team could come along and recruit him.
It's a risk they may not be willing to take.
Glenn Erby of Eagles Wire wrote: "The Eagles drafted the former rugby player in the seventh round as a potential long-term project. That gamble by (Eagles vice president of football operations) Howie Roseman could make the Eagles GM executive of the decade if Mailata continues to progress".
It comes just one week after former NFL offensive lineman and NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger last week declared he was blown away by Mailata's progress with just one pre-season under his belt.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this week that Mailata's "rapid development is forcing the Eagles to rethink" their initial plan to waive the Australian on the weekend and then sign him to their practice squad.
Mailata's size and speed have been such a revelation that the Eagles might not want to run the risk of allowing another team to sign him if he is initially waived.
- with AAP