If Jordan Mailata wasn’t so damn busy maybe he’d call the good folks at Merriam-Webster and ask for a little help. See, the giant 6-foot-8, 346-pound rugby player-turned NFL draft pick needs a new word for what he felt after his first NFL practice on Friday.
Overwhelming isn’t cutting it anymore.
“I can’t put it on a scale. That’s how overwhelming it is,” the 21-year-old said. “There’s no scale to put it on. So many things that you have to think about. Overwhelming … that’s gone out the window. There’s no word to replace overwhelming. We’ll just say overwhelming.”
Even a dip into the thesaurus won’t help Mailata. Overcome, overpowered, prostrated don’t seem to help him either. And it seems unlikely there are many lexicographers suiting up in the Eagles’ locker room. But his new teammates — even the rookies — are football players, so they can at least help him feel a little less overwhelmed as he tries to make a career of a sport he knew nothing about just a few months ago.
Mailata doesn’t have to turn far. For now, his popup locker in the Eagles’ dressing room is right next to fellow draft pick and offensive lineman Matt Pryor out of TCU. Pryor was drafted in the round before Mailata — 27 minutes before, to be exact — and is nearly as big, at 6-7, 332.
Relatively speaking, Pryor was a late-bloomer too. He didn’t begin playing organized football until his freshman year of high school. The Eagles’ sixth-round pick once went with his mother to watch his cousin’s football practice, when the head coach saw a 6-4 Pryor — in the middle of his growth spurt — and called him onto the field.
“He threw me a pair of cleats,” Pryor said, “and the rest was history.”
Despite that relatively late start, Pryor went on to have a really productive career at TCU, where he played in 46 games with 32 starts, playing guard and tackle. He hasn’t been playing football as long as a lot of rookies — he tried Pop Warner as a kid but had trouble with the weight limits — but he’s at least played for a big-time college program. Mailata has never even played in a game. Pryor and Mailata both wear size 18 shoes (see story), but Pryor put himself in Mailata’s for a brief moment.
“Yeah, that would be hard,” Pryor said. “Especially coming from running the ball and tackling and now you have to defend people. I feel like that’s really hard to do. But he has the athletic capability and ability to do it.”
On Friday, Mailata likened offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s coaching style to drowning. He said it felt like he was thrown into the deep end of a pool and his only life preservers were his teammates.
“Thank God I had the guys up front to help me,” he said.
During this past weekend’s three-day minicamp, there were restrictions outlined in the CBA. Players were allowed to be in the building for just 10 hours each day, which wasn’t going to cut it for Mailata as he transitions to a completely new sport. Think about how hard it was for Taylor Hart to switch sides of the ball and multiply that by a lot … or heaps or loads or a great deal or whatever synonym you want to grab from that trusty thesaurus.
So as of Friday afternoon, Mailata was planning on going to the team hotel and burrowing his nose into the playbook. He said he even told his offensive linemen teammates he’d buy them dinner, just to try to gain a little bit more of their knowledge.
One thing that surprised him on Friday was about how much his fellow offensive linemen were able to help him during what he called his first “training session,” using a term from his rugby days.
On Friday, Mailata looked about as uncomfortable with his helmet as Joel Embiid looked with that protective mask or as a dog with one of those cones around its neck. Every chance he got, Mailata grabbed his facemask and pulled the helmet to rest it on the top of his head.
It’s not just the playbook or the position that is going to be hard for Mailata to learn. It’s everything. It’s new equipment, new terms, new culture. It’s not going to be easy.
“To make the team, it’s going to be real hard,” Mailata said.
Hard is one way to put it. But maybe someone should call the dictionary folks, because that’s probably not going to cut it either.