The 53rd guy: Mailata story ‘never seen’ before in the NFL
AUSSIE NFL star Jordan Mailata became one of the most talked about pre-season stories across the entire NFL when he stunned the entire league to crack the reigning Super Bowl champions' final 53-man roster.
It's now been revealed that phenomenal achievement was always going to happen.
The 21-year-old former South Sydney rugby league talent was taken by the Philadelphia Eagles with pick No. 233 in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft - despite having never played the sport until earlier this year.
It was one of the biggest gambles of the entire draft when the Eagles traded in two draft picks in a deal with the New England Patriots to move up the draft in the seventh round to ensure Mailata would be theirs.
Philadelphia vice president of football operations Howard Roseman has now revealed offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was so captivated by Mailata's pre-draft trials that the Eagles knew even before Mailata was selected that they were prepared to keep him on their final 53-man roster for a full two-seasons even if he never plays a game.
Stoutland was completely sold on the 203cm, 157kg Aussie, despite the fact Mailata didn't even know how to put his pads on correctly.
Mailata had set up camp at one of the elite sporting facilities in the US, the IMG Academy, and during his workout an excited Stoutland began taking videos and sending them via his phone to the Eagles' front office in Philadelphia.
"He starts shooting you videos," Roseman said of the day Stoutland went to scout Mailata in training.
"You can't even load them because you have 40 videos on your phone.
"He's only done that a handful of times with guys, so we knew the passion," Roseman said. "And then we saw the workout, and it was incredibly impressive."
Mailata didn't even know it, but he'd already cracked the Eagles' 53-man roster before he'd ever played a game of America football.
"When we made this pick, we committed in the draft room that we knew it wasn't going to be a short-term process," Roseman said.
"And if we were just going to get into camp and say, 'Hey, the guy is raw' and not really have this developmental mindset that we had to give him a two-year time period to get it right, it wouldn't have made sense for us to trade two picks for him.
"So, we committed at that moment that, hey, if the guy looks like he has the traits we think he has, then we're going to commit to him and we're going to develop him and we're going to have him on our 53, and he's just going to be the 53rd guy."
The Eagles admit their expectations were high right from the start - but Mailata has found a way to surpass even their most optimistic predictions about how the left tackle would be playing less than a week out from the start of the NFL season.
Mailata said the key to his rapid development has simply been increasing his on-field snaps and repeating his techniques to perfect every small detail.
"There's also been a lot of coaching by the veterans and coach Stout," he said, according to Fox TV Eagles analyst Gary Cobb, a former Eagles linebacker.
"It's up to me then to pay attention and try to execute the detail of that technique. It comes down to that. From game one of pre-season to game three that was something that we focused on. I learned a lot.
"Game one, I had the jitters. I was nervous. Then as the game went on, things started to slow down. I started to see things a bit more clearer. I think from then, I realised that if you come out mentally prepared and you execute your task and pay attention for four seconds that will take you a long way."
On Saturday, the Eagles announced they had cut their 90-man roster to the mandatory 53 for the regular season, which starts on Friday (AEST) against the Atlanta Falcons.
Often project players are waived by their teams and re-signed to their practice squad rather than taking up a valuable place in the 53.
Roseman said that was not the plan.
Back in the war room during the April draft the Eagles' brains trust made the decision that Mailata would be "a two-year process" and would be a member of their squad.
"It's hard to find guys who are 6ft 8 and 360 pounds who can run like that and have the core strength that he has," Roseman said.
Eagles beat reporter Zach Rosenblatt on Monday morning told SEN Radio that the NFL has never seen a story like Mailata's.
"He's just gotten better each week," Rosenblatt told SEN Breakfast.
"There's been elite offensive linemen just raving about him and there's one who said he thinks he could be a future all pro which is high praise. It got to a point where it got to be a no-brainer that they'd keep him on the 53-man roster.
"When you consider his journey and the fact that he'd just started playing football I don't think there's ever been a story like this before.
"It got to the point that he was playing so well and he was being talked about so much around the league that there's a good chance another team would have tried to claim him if he would have been released by the Eagles (to the practice roster).
"I think a month ago the Eagles would have thought that he would have been able to pass through and they'd be able to bring him back onto the practice squad and not really worry about team's stealing him.
"Now they feel like they might have their offensive lineman of the future."
- with AAP
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