Over the next few weeks of training camp, as the Eagles try to decide who to keep on their 53-man roster, we’ll be catching up weekly with former Australian rugby player and Eagles’ seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to track his progress as he tries to defy the odds and make the Eagles’ roster less than a year after starting his quest to play American football.
Jordan Mailata woke up at around 9:30 a.m. last Thursday morning but instead of being overcome with a feeling of “oh bleep, I have to play in my first-ever football game,” he was actually able to relax thanks to a welcome visitor.
Mailata’s older sister Sese, the eldest of five Mailata children, flew all the way from Australia to watch her little brother’s American football debut.
Instead of spending his morning worrying about the craziness of what was to come that night, Mailata enjoyed “brekkie” (a slang term for breakfast in Australia) with his sister.
“It was really nice to have that alone time,” Mailata said. “It was the calm before the storm.”
But of course, the storm came.
By the time Mailata got on the sideline before the game, the crowd of nearly 70,000 people began filing into the Linc. It was the biggest crowd he’s ever played in front of, surpassing the 40,000 that showed up for the open practice a couple weeks ago.
The biggest surprise of the night didn’t have anything to do with the crowd or even the game itself. It was the change in personality from offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who has been riding Mailata hard since the spring each day in practice.
See, Stoutland prefers to do his yelling during the week, leaving game day for positive encouragement.
“Oh my God,” Mailata said through some laughter. “I thought he was possessed by an angel. Not a demon. I thought he was possessed by an angel on game day. Is that even possible? Be possessed by an angel?
“But I’m telling you, there’s a method to the madness. Because when he’s talking to you real light, you listen even more.”
Mailata watched the first half of Thursday’s game but started getting loose when he was told he would be playing in the second half. Unfortunately, his legs went stiff as soon as he got on the field.
The 21-year-old rookie in his first NFL (heck, his first football) game, gave up a sack almost as soon as he got in there, but then settled down nicely. He would have preferred to get off to a better start but was pleased with how quickly he was able to make adjustments.
The next day, back at the NovaCare Complex, Mailata was able to dive into the film from the game. He thinks being able to see himself in game action will help him identify mistakes and get them corrected.
Each time we talk, I’ve been asking Mailata to set a goal for the following week. His goal for the last week was to improve his hands. He thinks that’s “improved a lot.” He really wanted to become a more violent hand-puncher and he credits Stoutland and his veteran teammates for helping him get better in that area.
His goal for the next game
“Staying more balanced when I’m using my hands. I’ve noticed as training goes on, I’ve started to get tired, fatigued, and I’m starting to lean a bit more now. So I’ve got to keep my head out and beat that end to that spot. That’s one thing that I want to improve on as well as my run game. My run game is always something to approve on. This week, I’m trying to just pitter-patter my feet and not overstep.”