Jordan Mailata isn’t going to pretend that he didn’t doubt himself at times. That he didn’t wonder what the heck he was doing trying to become an NFL offensive lineman.
“I had those times where I was like, ‘What am I doing?’” Mailata said Thursday. “But I’ve always asked myself that and then I realized, ‘This is what you wanted to do.’ I have this saying, ‘Don’t dip your toe in the water, drown in it and learn how to swim.’ And I always go back to that saying and it pulls me out of that dark place when I start asking myself, ‘Man, do I really want to play football?’ And I always say that: ‘Don’t dip your toe in the water. Drown in it and learn how to swim.’ And I’m swimming.”
Mailata had an auspicious NFL debut Sunday, holding his own in his first career start in the Eagles’ win over the 49ers.
After Mailata wound up on IR with back injuries in his first two seasons, he was forced into action after projected left tackle Andre Dillard was lost for the season and replacement Jason Peters went on Injured Reserve.
He had played just two career snaps at left tackle and just 20 total before Sunday’s start.
“Jordan, obviously a tremendous game for him,” Kelce said. “Really happy for him to go out there in his first start and play the way he did. Really did a great job. It was fun to watch. A guy who has really been working for the last two years to come on here, playing a brand new sport that he’s never played before. To finally get the opportunity to go out there and play in a meaningful game and play the whole game and show what the culmination of that learning process has been, to go out and play the way he did, I was really happy for him.”
We don’t need to remind anybody that until he showed up for minicamp in the spring of 2018 — just 29 months ago — Mailata had never played football on any level.
How did he pull it off?
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and (then) you back that up with the training that you’ve gone through,” Mailata said. “When you train as hard as we practice, there’s only one thing that gives you and that’s confidence and then you rely on that. Rely on your training in hard times to pull you out of sticky situations. And that’s how it was. I always told myself if my number was called I would be ready and that’s basically what happened.”
This is where we would normally mention how Mailata was an Australian rugby player until he decided to give football a whirl.
But he’s had enough of that narrative, and he explained why.
“It’s just an identity thing for me,” he said. “Being labeled as the guy who played rugby, even using that as an excuse for giving up a sack or having a missed assignment. I’d rather have a missed assignment because I didn’t know the play, I don’t want a missed assignment because, ‘Oh, he’s a rugby player.’ ... I’m not trying to fill J.P.’s boots, I’m trying to make my own name. I’m trying to be my own person in the sport. I’m not trying to rely on someone else’s past or even my own past.”
Mailata isn't Jason Peters, and the way things have gone so far this year, they're lucky he's not.