‘Bigger than Hayne’: Aussie’s NFL fairytale
AUSSIE NFL freak Jordan Mailata has been selected in the Philadelphia Eagles' final 53-man squad.
The former South Sydney rugby league product - who was recruited as a raw, long-term project when the Eagles selected him with the No. 233 pick in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft - has survived the final cut to the reigning Super Bowl champions' roster.
The 158kg wrecking ball did enough in the Eagles' final two pre-season games to squeeze his way into one of 10 roster spots given to offensive linemen.
Maialata's selection was the headline act on a bumper day for Aussies in the NFL with rookie punter Cameron Johnston also making the Eagles' roster.
Defensive end Adam Gotsis also kept his position with the Denver Broncos while Aussie rules-bred punters Michael Dickson (Seattle Seahawks), Jordan Berry (Pittsburgh Steelers) and Lachlan Edwards (New York Jets) also won spots on active rosters.
Philadelphia was reportedly hesitant to drop Mailata to its practice squad - fearing that a rival team may choose to swoop and recruit Mailata immediately.
The Eagles confirmed reports of Mailata's inclusion on Sunday morning when they announced their full 53-man roster.
Mailata revealed he broke down in tears when an Eagles coach called him to give the most important news of his life.
Also: Imagine how all the offensive linemen released today around the league feel seeing Jordan Mailata start playing football for the first time in his life a few months ago. Now, he made it on the defending Super Bowl champions’ roster. Insane story. #Eagles— Zack Rosenblatt (@ZackBlatt) 1 September 2018
I know we have talked about it a ton, but Jordan Mailata making this roster is amazing. Still a long way to go but what a great take by FO & scouting department. And for Jordan to progress like he has is big credit to him and Stoutland. Fantastic story.— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) 1 September 2018
"When they called me, I cried," Mailata told the Eagles' website.
"I'm bloody, extremely lucky. I know and understand where I am and the expectations they hold me to, so I just try to keep myself in check and, like I said, narrow it down to one thing every day and try to get better.
"When I sit here and reflect on my journey to the NFL and all the roadblocks that were there when I made the decision to come to America and try to pursue a career in the NFL, there was a lot of adversity and people doubting.
"And when I think about that, it makes make me realize and appreciate that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.
"This is still the start of everything and I still know where I need to get going," he added. "People think that I made it. No. Like I said, I am happy with where I'm at, but I still want to get better every day, and when I sit here and think about how far I've come, I'm happy with all the progress that I've made but I can't settle for it."
Commentators are now more convinced than ever that Maialata is one of the game's best stories of the pre-season.
After seeing Mailata in action during the Eagles' second final pre-season game against the New York Jets, former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker 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."
Mailata's incredible rise saw NFL commentators earlier this week describe his journey as "maybe the best story in the NFL".
The Eagles are expected to confirm his selection when their final squad is announced later on Sunday morning (AEST).