Will Jordan Mailata be a rare success or just the latest failure in cross-code NFL transfers

Alex Broun 20:31 29/04/2018
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Jordan Mailata - will he succeed in the NFL?

    The name on everyone’s lips in the NFL and NRL universe today is Jordan Mailata.

    But if you didn’t pick up the news yesterday, you could be excused for asking: “Jordan who?”

    Gigantic 20-year-old Mailata is the latest cross-code experiment in the NFL after the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, selected the South Sydney Rabbitoh as No233 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, as a projected offensive lineman.

    The super-sized Samoan, who hails from Sydney, now follows in the footsteps of other Aussies in the NFL – Jarryd Hayne, Darren Bent, Mat McBriar, Ben Graham, Sav Rocca and current Broncos star Adam Gotsis.

    The difference being from those listed above only Gotsis and Hayne were not punters.

    Aussie Rules of course has a similar skill-set to a NFL punter so Rocca (112 games), Graham (91), McBriar (141) and Bennett (159, the most successful Australian in NFL history) had a fairly easy transition – only having to get use to a slightly different shaped ball to kick.

    For those hoping to transition to other positions – Hayne (Running Back) and Gotsis (Defensive End) – the challenges are much greater and to date only Gotsis (32 games), is the only non-special team player to make the transition successfully.

    And Gotsis actually played American Football growing up in Melbourne.

    Mailata, who EPSN described as the Eagles’ “most interesting pick”, has never played gridiron but what he does have is size and, more importantly, speed.

    His physical attributes are impressive: height 6’8’’ (2.03m), weight 345lbs (155kgs), as well as long arms (36in), and big hands (11in), perfect for keeping would-be sackers away from your quarterback.

    But the stat that really made the NFL scouts stand up and take notice was time over 40-yards – 5.12 secs.

    That kind of reaction time and explosive speed in NFL is priceless.

    Watch Mailata in junior Rugby League (below) and it looks like boys against men – a charging bull swatting away mice. He reminds a lot of a young Jonah Lomu.

    It was all on show in the NRL where to be honest – despite his speed and size – Mailata was club less. Souths had let him go.

    And that’s how he ended up in the NFL.

    With his days numbered at the Rabbitohs his agent decided to create a highlight reel to try to entice other league clubs.

    Just on the off chance he also sent it to a connection with the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, who was intrigued.

    Mailata was summoned to the US and a workout in Los Angeles in November last year led to Mailata being selected to train at the IMG Academy in Florida.

    There he worked hard for three months – four-and-a-half hours a day training and three more on board and film work, fast-tracking his knowledge of the game.

    As Mailata admits, he knew “little as peanuts” about NFL, although he (and his agent) were no doubt aware of the riches on offer.

    “The last three or four months have not been easy at all,” he said.

    “Mentally challenging as well as physically. Trying to understand the basics and the fundamentals of football has been a great task.

    “Little knowledge before I came in, but I can happily say now that I can understand concepts and a beginning to have a step in the right direction.”

    Mailata was clearly confident, inviting scouts to watch him work out, under the guidance of Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland.

    “He gave me the thumbs up at the end of the session and said I had an outstanding session, an outstanding workout,” Mailata said.

    Most importantly he earned Stoutland’s respect, a key element in the Eagles finally stepping in for him – although another seven franchises had expressed interest.

    The reason – Stoutland (below) decided that the eager young giant was “coachable”.

    This is the key because no matter what physical skills you have – and Hayne for example had many – if you cannot learn the complexities of the game, you will not succeed.

    For a punter the challenge is not so high – run on, kick the ball, run off. Not for an OT (offensive tackle), where Mailata has been chosen to play, who is involved in many of the most complex phases of the game.

    The huge publicity around Hayne’s initial success, and then failure, in the NFL also means that the weight of expectation around Mailata has been reduced.

    He will be expected to fail, with his drafting seen as not much more than a novelty, or “luxury pick”, for the strong Eagles roster.

    Even the NFL website only gives him a 50% chance of success. But Mailata know the risk.

    “Walking away from something I knew that well to go into something that was very foreign was a big risk to take,” he explains.

    “So I was definitely all-in when I made my decision.”

    Getting drafted was the easy part – the hard work starts now.