Jordan Mailata goes from Aussie rugby star to NFL starter

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Jordan Mailata said he knew "peanuts" through the NFL when he decided to stop playing rugby in Australia and pursue a career in football three years ago.
The 6-foot-8,346-pound Mailata has come a long way in a short time, doing well in his first career to make Carson Wentz's blind side in front of a national crowd on "Sunday Night Football" at 25:20 Philadelphia victory to protect San Francisco.
Mailata found out the day before the game that he had to replace the injured nine-time Pro Bowl who had left Jason Peters. He asserted himself against the 49ers' low-injury defensive line, did not allow bags and helped open some tracks. Mailata made a false start with a third-and-1 that blocked the drive.
"I'm not trying to fill JP's boots," Mailata said on Thursday. "I'm trying to make my own name, I'm just trying to be my own person in the sport. It's an identity thing for me. To be called the guy who played rugby and that as an excuse to give you up . " Sack or missed task, I'd rather have a missed task because I didn't know the game. I don't want to have a missed assignment because I was a rugby player. "
Mailata began pursuing a career in the NFL in 2017 after overwhelming players on the rugby field while playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He began training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida in January 2018 and impressed the Eagles' offensive coach Jeff Stoutland on his pro day that year.
At first, Mailata said he was intimidated by Stoutland's aggressive coaching. Now he says their relationship has grown "exponentially".
“I thought why is he yelling at me? Dude, I just got to America. Stop yelling at me, "Mailata remembered with a smile." Well, stout, he's my type. "
Philadelphia moved up 17 places in 2018 to draw Mailata with the number 233 in its seventh round. Mailata didn't play its rookie season and spent last year with an injured reserve. He wowed everyone with his singing voice before proving he could move from rugby to the NFL.
"Every day he came into this building was a new day for him," said Eagle trainer Doug Pederson. “He has relearned the things he learned the day before and has grown in three years. He grew so much that he only understood the soccer game and the soccer game, let alone carried out the offense. Just learn how to play, just learn how to take a large body and move it differently than what it was used to. He has come a long, long way in his development and growth. "
Mailata, 23, made his NFL debut in Week 1, playing 18 snaps in real tackle. After Peters was put on IR last Saturday, Mailata got its first chance to start.
"I thought there were some really good things about him," said Pederson. "He's obviously a big man. He's strong and when he knows 100% exactly what he's doing in that particular game, it's difficult for defenders to get around him, whether it's a pass block or a run block, if he's right. So it's still a work in progress. It's still like a clay ball that we shape and shape and make a left device. "
Mailata has a tough job on Sunday when the Eagles (1-2-1) visit Pittsburgh. The Steelers (3-0) have T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree run off the edge. The two linebackers put together six of the team's 15 bags. Mailata will likely pull Dupree from the right.
"You're chasing the passerby and he's got his hands full," said Pederson. "It will take a solid week for all of our boys to prepare for this defense."
When Wentz first saw Mailata, he was amazed by its size.
“Big Dude is your first reaction when you see him and see the highlights of him playing rugby and you just see one great athlete. And to see how he progressed, learned this game and got the details of that particular position, I was so proud of him, ”said Wentz. "He's a great guy, a great player."
Three-time all-pro center Jason Kelce was also thrilled that Mailata's persistence was paying off.
"It was fun to watch a man who has been working on a brand new sport for the last two years to finally get the chance to play the whole game, a meaningful game and play the way he did. I was delighted for him." Said Kelce.
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