I always look forward to reaching out to SB Nation’s college football blogs after the NFL Draft every year to get more inside information on the Philadelphia Eagles’ new draft picks and undrafted free agent signings.
SB Nation doesn’t have a rugby league blog, however, so I had to reach out to a special source in order to get some more insight on one of the most unconventional draft picks in NFL history, Jordan Mailata.
Thankfully, Brad Walter (@bradwaltersport) was able to answer my questions. Brad is a Senior Reporter for NRL.com and has been covering the NRL since 1995 for Australian Associated Press and 16 years at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Here’s our exchange regarding the 6-8, 346 pound behemoth the Eagles are trying to train at offensive tackle.
1 - Can you give us some background on how Mailata got started in the rugby league? And sum up what his playing career was like?
Jordan played junior rugby league for Bankstown Bulls before making representative teams with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, who are an NRL club. He played for the Bulldogs Under 20s team in the National Youth League in 2016 before being spotted and recruited by South Sydney Rabbitohs, for whom he played in 2017. He played in the frontrow and was an absolute wrecking ball but there were concerns he was too big for a game which only allows 8 interchanges per team over 80 minutes.
2 - What were Mailata’s strengths/weaknesses as a rugby league player?
He was almost unstoppable with the ball close to the try line but perhaps his best attribute, according to coaches at the Rabbitohs, was his commitment to hard work and follow instructions. He started the 2017 season weighing 166kg (365 pounds) and managed to get his weight down to 140kg (308 pounds). Given space to wind up, from a kick off to restart, for example, he could carry the ball 50m (55 yards). However, the Rabbitohs used him in short stints due his size and lack of stamina.
3 - The Eagles are trying to have Mailata play at a position where he’ll block people in the NFL as an offensive tackle. How much do you think his rugby league experience will translate? Do you think it’ll help him at all?
Block plays by forwards are used in the NRL but have to be much more subtle so as not to cause an obstruction, which is illegal. Therefore Jordan should have an understanding of what is required and may find it easy to adapt as it is legal. He certainly has the size and mobility.
4 - After watching his crazy highlights on YouTube, some have wondered why the Eagles wouldn’t try to use Mailata at a position where he actually gets to run with and/or catch the football. Does it come as a surprise to you that the Eagles wouldn’t try to have him do that?
I assume that offensive plays are more difficult to adapt to than the defensive side of the game. Jordan can pass and catch but in rugby league players only pass backwards and blockers aren’t allowed.
5 - Anything to know about Mailata off the pitch? What’s his personality like?
He is driven and Souths coaches say he would always ask what he needs to do to improve. The fact he is ambitious is underlined by his willingness to move to the US and try a sport he had never played.
Because it never gets old, here’s a video of Mailata’s rugby league highlights.
And here he is at Eagles rookie minicamp.