He spent most of his rookie season inactive as the coaching staff worked to develop his talent at offensive tackle, but with all the makings of a future star, was apparently closer than most thought to taking the field last season.
Mailata spoke to ESPN and talked a bit about how the Eagles wanted him bigger — than the already 346 pounds he was when drafted — and other lessons he learned his rookie season.
He opened the video clip by talking about how the team could have questioned whether or not he belonged in the locker room, but they didn’t and instead welcomed him with open arms as he tried to make the transition to football player.
Every day they challenged me to get better, and I developed and adopted that mindset. I look at when I started, what I had and what I learned, I think it’s a big credit to myself, but also the people who were in my corner at the time.
I appreciate my teammates so much, because it wasn’t just the offensive guys that helped me out, it was the defensive players too like Michael Bennett and Derek Barnett, BG Brandon Graham. Shoutout to BG man, he’s just the happiest guy on the team.
He then went to reflect on one particular moment in practice against Michael Bennett, when he noted how close he really was to taking the field in 2018.
And not many people know this, but I was getting a ton of reps this year during practice, I was so close to playing this year and not many people know that, they don’t speak about it, but you’re making me reflect now.
This one time in practice against Michael B., I just felt really confident, I was working on a juke down, just like a fake through of the hand, and I kicked back and I did it, and Michael Bennett just caught my hand mid-air — it was embarrassing.
He talked about the Eagles wanting him to add weight and play at 360 pounds. When he was playing rugby, Mailata was actually 310, so he’d already put on 36 pounds when he was drafted, but the Eagles wanted more. One change he was happy with, was having only two fitness drills during the season, after coming from rugby where they ran “kilometers” everyday.
Mailata also had a lot of kind things to say about Eagles fans and the kind of environment they make home games.
The fans add to the atmosphere. Like, you’d be surprised, you come to an Eagles game and you’re playing at our home stadium, I feel sorry for you. It’s so loud in there.
He also had an interesting take for people who ask him for his advice on taking on a whole new sport, especially at this level.
I said, don’t dip your toe in the water, drown in it and then learn how to swim in it. That’s the only way. That’s the way I learned. If you fail, you fail, the next day you can wake up and say I gave it my all. And it sounds so cliche, but it’s true, it’s so true. And when people say you’re just being cliche, I was like, well then you do it. You do it, and tell me how you’re going to get through putting your foot in.
Mailata then talked about having one year of experience now under his belt, and he said he’s feeling very confident in himself and in the playbook.
The coaches want somebody they can trust on the field, so when I got put on IR it taught me a lot about myself, and my limit to what I can handle. Just overworking myself. I guess as a rookie you feel pressured to just keep working and keep working and I’m just trying to focus on getting healthy again.
The video ends with him saying that one of his goals is being out on the field and his parents being able to see him play. And at 6’8, nearly 360 pounds, it seems safe to say that Eagles fans want to see that too.