‘Like a drug’: NFL freak’s addiction taking him to top
IT IS easy to make giant strides when you wear size 18 football cleats.
But there's another reason why Sydney native Jordan Mailata seems to be making a cakewalk out of learning one of the most important positions in American football.
It's because the 6-foot-8, 150-kilogram offensive linesman for the Philadelphia Eagles is addicted to studying the "war tactics" of NFL since his introduction to the sport 10 months ago.
"When I was invited out to Los Angeles to work out for this NFL program in December, it was like a drug," Mailata said.
"(The scouts) were teaching me about the individual roles in NFL and I was completely blown away because I'm a big war fan; I love war films like Blackhawk Down and Lord of The Rings.
"And (NFL) is war; it is a game of chess and every piece is pivotal to success. I was hooked. I wanted more."
Only a year ago, Mailata was steamrolling defences as a 140kg prop playing for South Sydney Rabbitohs in the under-20s competition.
Now, Mailata is a budding left tackle for the Eagles - the most important position on the offensive line as they are charged with protecting the quarterback.
As most quarterbacks are right-handed, their backs are turned to the left side of the field when trying to throw a pass and are vulnerable to being blindsided.
Mailata's rapid transformation stunned seasoned NFL pundits during a jaw-dropping pre-season campaign, where he continually man-handled seasoned pass rushers trying to apply pressure on his quarterback.
Former NFL player-turned commentator Ross Tucker posted on Twitter, "I think he's going to be All-Pro," while former Eagles wide receiver Mike Quick said Mailata had talent "God has given him that you can't coach".
Mailata says he never got ahead of himself.
After all, the Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champions and aren't about to throw a beginner into a crucial position.
"No, it wasn't hard. I just knew it was pre-season and it's a different beast," Mailata said.
"I appreciated all those kind words; they were a good opportunity to reflect on all the hard work we've put in; myself, the coaching staff and my teammates.
"But it's a process, and I have to take baby steps."
Mailata was omitted from the Eagles' 46-man squad that defeated the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL season-opener in Philadelphia last week.
Fellow Australian teammate, punter Cameron Johnston, was integral to the win but there is no timeline for Mailata to make his regular season debut.
Many speculate it won't be this season, but Bankstown-bred Mailata is happy to bide his time.
"When the coaching staff say I'm ready then, yes, I'll happily strap on the pads," he said.
"But all I'm focused on doing now is getting better every practice session.
"Every day, coach asks me, 'Did you get better today?' And I will give him a thumbs up if I did, or a thumbs to the side if I stayed the same, or a thumbs down if I didn't do well.
"I have long way to go, a really long way to go. I haven't really done much at all."
Mailata's whirlwind transition from rugby league draws comparisons to Jarryd Hayne's heralded 2015 stint with the San Francisco 49ers.
"But I am on a completely different path," Mailata said.
"Yeah we both played rugby league, but he dropped his (NRL) contract and had to do it the hard way.
"I had a leg-up with an invitation to an NFL trial program where I got in
"Jarryd did message me and offered support and I appreciate that a whole lot."
Mailata says additional well wishes from family, friends and fans back in Australia have inspired him while he continues to attempt the inconceivable.
"But I have to keep remembering I have a long way to go," he said.
"It's baby steps … with these big-arse feet."