Not long after the Eagles moved up 17 spots to draft Jordan Mailata from the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the giant rugby player was on a conference call from Dallas with reporters in Philly.
He was asked how much he knew about American football just a few months ago.
“Mate, as little as peanuts,” he said (see story).
Mailata is already in the middle of a crash course at IMG Academy in Florida and soon enough he’ll be inside the NovaCare Complex, learning from his new position coach Jeff Stoutland. Even as an incredibly athletic, 6-foot-8, 347-pound specimen, Mailata has an uphill battle. A steep uphill battle.
But the 21-year-old isn’t the first rugby player to try his hand at American football.
Just a few years ago, in 2015, rugby superstar Jarryd Hayne signed with the San Francisco 49ers, made the 53-man roster and even played in the regular season.
"I think he needs to understand you have to expect the unexpected, that's the biggest thing," Hayne told NRL.com. "You can go into the NFL and understand a little bit of what you're going to learn, but until you sit down in a room and see the playbook, the defensive schemes, it just blows your mind.
''I went in there with some idea, like, 'Oh yeah, I kind of get it,' but not only do you have to learn all the schemes, but you also change them every week. And it's not one of those things where you get time to learn and change them; it's like, 'BOOM, we're doing this now,' and you're expected to know it.”
Hayne’s stint in the NFL was short-lived. After he made the 49ers’ roster, he played minimally and bounced from their active roster to their practice squad. He retired from the NFL about two years ago and the 30-year-old has been back playing rugby since then.
Another part of American football Hayne said Mailata will need to get used to is the equipment, specifically the helmet. He also said Mailata will need to master non-verbal communication for calls on the line.
If there’s anyone who knows what Mailata is about to go through, it’s Hayne.
“Unfortunately, I do not know Jarryd Hayne personally,” Mailata said to NFL Network on Saturday. “We haven’t really connected. I’m sure now we might.”