There’s a picture hanging on the partitions on the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia that’s Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s favorite — however not for the explanation you’d anticipate.
Dejected, defeated and overwhelmed down, Jalen Hurts was left damaged in the course of MetLife Stadium.
He had simply performed the worst sport of his younger profession, finishing simply 14 of 31 passes for 129 yards and three interceptions in a 13-7 loss to the Giants.
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It was 2021, Jordan Mailata’s first season as Philadelphia’s beginning left sort out and whereas the Australian was nonetheless studying the sport, he had by no means forgotten what it meant to be a teammate.
So, when Hurts was in want of somebody to choose him up, Mailata was there. And it’s a second that coach Sirianni needed everybody else within the workforce to recollect.
“There’s one picture that’s up with Jordan Mailata with his hand on Jalen’s [Hurts] back,” Sirianni mentioned again in December earlier than Hurts’ first journey to MetLife since that sport.
“Jalen has his hands on his knees. He’s looking down. Jordan has his hand on his back.
“I thought what an unbelievable picture of teammates being there for each other in a time of a very tough spot.”
Much like former Eagles sort out Jason Peters earlier than him, Mailata takes his job of defending the quarterback significantly. That safety is available in totally different varieties, like when he confronted Quincy Williams after the Jets linebacker flattened Hurts within the pre-season.
But it additionally is available in moments like that shared with Hurts after the Giants sport, one which
Mailata instructed NBC Sports Philadelphia he would “never forget”.
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“It’s almost like he’s Hurts’ personal bodyguard,” Chris Franklin, Eagles beat reporter for NJ Advance Media, instructed foxsports.com.au.
“You saw Mailata put his hand on his [Hurts’] shoulder like, ‘I got you and it will be OK’. And you flip to that where there’s been games where Jordan may not have been extremely sharp but you’ll see Hurts will lift him up.
“It’s a real thing. Mailata really believes in Hurts. He’ll pretty much do anything for him.”
Now Mailata, who used to skip college on a Monday morning to look at the Super Bowl “mainly for the halftime show”, shall be defending Hurts on the most important stage in American soccer and within the largest sport of his profession.
It is simply the most recent chapter in Mailata’s self-described “Hollywood movie”, which noticed the 25-year-old go flip down a $5,000 reserve grade deal from Souths to chase a special dream.
Now he is among the NFL’s finest offensive tackles and was rewarded with a four-year, $64 million contract extension again in 2021.
With the boy from Bankstown getting ready to the league’s final prize, foxsports.com.au spoke to 6 individuals who have been concerned in Mailata’s journey to Super Bowl LVII.
They share tales that talk to the Australian’s freakish mixture of measurement, power and athleticism that put him on the trail to the NFL.
But additionally they shine a light-weight on Mailata the particular person, the light big who was all the time there to choose up his teammates, lengthy earlier than that indelible picture adorning the NovaCare Complex halls.
‘NOT A RUGBY BOY ANYMORE’: THE EVOLUTION OF MAILATA
Jamie Eid nonetheless remembers the one second when he knew Mailata was going to make one thing of himself, though he by no means anticipated that will contain taking part in within the Super Bowl.
“You knew he was destined for something,” Eid, Mailata’s former rugby league coach at Five Dock RSL, instructed foxsports.com.au.
“I remember when he told me he was going to try his hand in the NFL, you believe in it and know he can do it, but for someone like me who knew the sport and how much is involved in it and for him to pick it up in such a short time frame, it’s mind-blowing.”
Mind-blowing, just like the second in a sport at Birchgrove Oval the place Mailata “ran 100 metres” to attain for Five Dock whereas additionally “carrying five players on his back”.
That, Eid mentioned, was the second the place he simply knew Mailata “was going to do something with his life”.
And funnily sufficient, Mailata’s NFL journey began with spotlight performs not too dissimilar to that one for the Dockers.
But ever since he arrived in America, Mailata has needed to be often known as greater than “the boy from the Bankstown Bulls”, his junior rugby league workforce.
That is to not say that Mailata will ever neglect his roots. Far from it really.
“I know deep down that I’ll never forget my rugby league life,” he mentioned again in 2021.
Mailata simply didn’t need to be judged based mostly on who he was once or given extra leeway than everybody else as a result of he was ‘just a rugby player’.
“But he’s not anymore,” Eid mentioned, “he’s the football player.”
“That’s him. He’s not a rugby boy anymore. He’s an NFL player. Watching him make the Super Bowl, even I shed a tear.
“I watched this kid develop from a 16-year-old to where he is now and I had a hand in that. Just seeing that gives you a lot of pride, knowing you had a hand in where he is today.”
And it’s not simply Eid who feels that manner. He reached out to all of Mailata’s former Five Dock teammates to organise a Super Bowl watch celebration in a close-by pub.
“We haven’t seen each other in probably about five years,” Eid mentioned.
“Jordan is bringing us back together.”
Mailata not as nervous as his teammates | 00:50
Like he did once they had been all taking part in collectively for the Dockers, even going so far as to give you a variation of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ that later grew to become the workforce tune.
“You can see it when he does interviews, he’s still the same person, which is great,” Eid added.
“A lot of people probably get swept up in the money. He’s got the money but he’s still the same person. That to me is a proud moment. He didn’t lose himself to that.”
AN NRL DREAM DASHED… BUT ANOTHER ‘PHENOMENAL’ ONE IS BORN
Mailata might have additionally simply misplaced himself when he was reduce by the Bulldogs after which supplied simply $5,000 by the Rabbitohs, along with his sporting future seemingly at a crossroads.
But communicate to Ryan Carr, South Sydney’s under-20s coach on the time, and it’ll rapidly change into clear that it didn’t matter whether or not Mailata’s future was in rugby league or not.
He was prepared to place within the work to make one thing of himself.
“He couldn’t make the team early on because physically we had to get him to a point where he could handle the movements required in rugby league,” Carr instructed foxsports.com.au.
“To his credit, he showed a heap of persistence. He worked really hard. I remember I used to do video with players, they trained towards the afternoon most days because it was a part-time program back then and he’d stay back until nine o’clock at night outside my office.
“He’d wait until everyone had left and he’d want to watch video of other people, just to get better. When you see him doing well now it makes you so happy because he’s so persistent and so hardworking and wanted to make it.”
Carr nonetheless remembers the primary time he laid eyes on Mailata within the fitness center at Redfern Oval, and it’s simple to grasp why.
After all, as Mailata’s former mentor put it: “You don’t really forget it when you meet someone that big”.
“He sort of stops you in your tracks… he’s such a giant human,” added Carr.
But once more what you see and what you really get if you begin to discuss to Mailata are two utterly various things. Carr in contrast it to flipping a swap.
“He’s a fierce competitor and physical when he needs to be,” he mentioned.
“He’s got a really good ability as a person to be able to flip that switch and be super aggressive and protective when he needs it.
“But that’s not his character all the time. He’s only that person when he needs to be, which is on the field in the moment. When he’s off the field he’s quite the opposite.
“He’s quietly spoken, polite, very humble, a real family guy and he’s not this big confident aura he might portray. He’s a good team guy, good mate, good friend to people.”
‘About rattling time!’ All love for Hurts | 00:41
Now assistant coach on the Dragons, Carr mentioned the NRL squad is meant to be coaching on Monday morning, though he’s nonetheless hoping to catch even just a bit little bit of the sport.
After all, as a eager NFL fan, he understands simply how onerous Mailata has labored to not simply play however excel in one of many sport’s hardest positions.
“To play left tackle for a team in the Super Bowl is quite phenomenal,” Carr mentioned.
“I mean, they made a movie on Michael Oher in The Blind Side. He’s pretty much doing that but in hopefully a Super Bowl-winning team.
“To see him playing at a high level in that position, not just in a good team but contributing so much to how the team is doing, is so impressive. He’s worked so hard and deserves it.”
THE BOARDROOM MEETING WHEN MAILATA REALLY ‘SHONE THROUGH’
Carr used to joke along with his assistant coaches at South Sydney that Mailata was constructed for the NFL, such was the impression he was in a position to make in brief bursts with explosive performs.
Like the play Carr stored calling and which was later appropriately named ‘Jordan’, the place he would discover a approach to get Mailata one-on-one with an opposition participant. It didn’t matter who.
“If you could get him one-on-one with anyone, he’d pretty much find a way to score,” Carr mentioned.
So, Mailata’s supervisor put collectively a highlights package deal of these precise form of performs and despatched them round to a number of groups, coaches and scouts over in America.
It ultimately made its approach to Will Bryce and Aden Durde, who had been a part of the NFL’s worldwide pathways program.
“He and I were working out another player at the time back in London and one of our executives at the time actually forwarded the highlights of Jordan to us and so that was the first time we saw those rugby clips,” Bryce, who’s now NFL International’s head of soccer growth, instructed foxsports.com.au.
All they might go off was what they might see on the display screen. So, what had been they in search of? Well, first as Bryce joked, they had been merely making an attempt to work out if Mailata was actually that massive.
“Or are the people he’s playing against just short?” Bryce laughed.
“You’re just trying to look at the obvious things, height and the body. Is he in shape?
“Muscle, build and then obviously, with Jordan playing rugby, he’s carrying the ball. So you got to see him open up and run, you got to see the aggression, you got to see his footwork and his agility and for someone that size, really he’s just so talented in that area. It really sets him apart, like you see now.
“So just the basics… then we can progress that and usually meet in person and take it from there.”
They did simply that, assembly Mailata and some different worldwide gamers in late 2016 at a subject in Los Angeles, beginning off with all the important thing measurables you’ll anticipate.
“We wanted to try get his official height, weight, arm length, wingspan — all the things that coming up here soon the NFL combine,” Bryce mentioned, including Mailata was additionally in a position to run a powerful 40-yard sprint regardless of having by no means tried the drill earlier than.
It wasn’t simply Mailata’s bodily prowess that offered him as a prospect although.
Rather, his skill to rapidly course of data after which replicate it on the sphere proved that greater than the rest, Mailata was coachable.
And for somebody eager to study a playbook that was extra like a international language, that was necessary.
“I mean the first rep from the first time he did it to the third time, to the fourth time he was doing it, you could see he just picks things up so naturally,” Bryce mentioned.
“We left there really excited about that opportunity.”
But even earlier than stepping on the sphere, Mailata had already left a long-lasting impression when he first met with Bryce and Durde within the NFL’s new headquarters in Los Angeles.
“We sat down in a boardroom and it was a bit more of a serious environment,” Bryce mentioned.
“But the person that Jordan is shone through and you just thought, ‘This guy is, if he doesn’t do this, he’s going to die trying basically’. He’s just going to use all of it.”
Over the following 4 days, Bryce mentioned Mailata went on to show he was not only a “special athlete” however “a special person”.
“Just the pride he has for himself and his family, people back home where he’s from, it really drives him and you can see that,” he added.
‘DON’T KNOW ANYBODY’: MAILATA’S GROWTH FROM ‘GROUND ZERO’
When Mailata arrived on the IMG Academy in January 2018 as a part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, he was a clean canvas — actually.
Taryn Morgan, IMG’s Vice President of Athletic and Personal Development, can nonetheless keep in mind the primary day Mailata walked into the Academy and was requested a comparatively easy query.
At least, for anybody who had grown up across the NFL it might’ve been easy. For Mailata although, his reply was proof of simply how international the game was to him at that time.
“I really remember one of the coaches asking them about who their favourite NFL player was or who they wanted to play like,” Morgan instructed foxsports.com.au.
“And he was like, ‘I don’t know anybody’. It was just funny to see how he and some of the others really had no concept of the NFL.”
Even placing on a helmet for the primary time was a problem as Jay Butler, IMG’s former power and conditioning coach, instructed foxsports.com.au.
“From him not knowing how to put a helmet on or how to squirt a water bottle, like literally through it [his helmet], it was all over his face, to one of the best tackles in the league and starting for the starting in the Super Bowl is an amazing progression,” he mentioned.
“You start from ground zero,” added Morgan, who nonetheless laughs on the reminiscence of a then 156-kilogram Mailata driving round on the Beach Cruiser bikes gamers got to get from one aspect of the campus to the opposite.
But Mailata has since outgrown the novelty and even from the primary second he walked into the Academy’s services in Florida, Butler rapidly observed the Australian had “some legitimate size and talent”.
Not simply that however he was additionally prepared to place within the work to take advantage of that measurement and expertise.
“I just remember what a good-hearted guy he was,” Butler mentioned.
“Always willing to learn, always willing to push the guys around him, all the cultural things we talk about in a program, he had it.”
Mailata & buddies dominate 49ers defence | 00:29
But for all Mailata has achieved off the sphere, it’s his persona off it that stays with Morgan.
She nonetheless remembers his affable persona and the way in which his booming voice would fill the coaching room.
She undoubtedly nonetheless remembers the nickname he gave her — and insisted on yelling throughout the room, as a result of that’s simply Jordan.
“He’s always energy and joking around,” Morgan mentioned.
“My name is Taryn, I’ve never had anyone call me ‘Tar’ but from across the room it is always, ‘Tarrrrrrrrr’. It’s always very excitable with Jordan.”
Now that excitable Australian, the identical one which solely 5 years in the past didn’t know how you can placed on a helmet, is about to play in a Super Bowl.
“And he’s literally just probably reaching his stride,” Butler mentioned.
“None of it is a surprise but for me I’m just so proud and excited,” added Morgan.
“It makes your heart full.”
HOW MAILATA ‘COMMANDS A PRESENCE’ BY BEING HIS AUTHENTIC SELF
Now Mailata is a beginning left sort out and signed a four-year deal price as much as $64 million in 2021, thought of the most important cut price within the league final 12 months by PFF.
But the Bankstown child has by no means forgotten who he was or the place he got here from. And contained in the Philadelphia locker room, Mailata’s outsized persona nonetheless shines by in accordance with Eagles beat reporter Chris Franklin.
Although Franklin added, laughing, that a part of the authenticity that makes Mailata so approachable is the actual fact he nonetheless swears loads, “much more than his mum wants to know”.
“I think it’s always funny that you can see when he walks around and comes into the room, it’s funny because you know where he’s at,” Franklin instructed foxsports.com.au.
“There’s times he’ll go, ‘Christopher, I knew you were around here’… he’s a really down-to-earth, genuine guy. This team has a lot of them, but you just see he commands a presence in that locker room.”
Mailata had already defied expectations when he was first drafted by the Eagles as a seventh-round choose in 2018.
But being drafted was one factor. Making the leap from challenge to participant was one other — and Mailata didn’t have any faculty expertise to attract from both.
What he did have although was a level from Jeff Stoutland University.
“Jeff Stoutland is, in my opinion, the best offensive line coach in the league,” Franklin mentioned.
“He’s blunt, he’s honest, he critiques them but he really, really takes the time to make sure that all these guys are ready to go.
“Jordan brought it up beforehand and it’s taken on a life of its own with Stoutland University. The shirts were made and everybody’s talking about that.
“But it’s just the little techniques, the little mannerisms they’re using now in this offence have basically opened up things and made this probably the best offensive line in the league.”
That was made much more clear in opposition to top-of-the-line defensive strains within the league final weekend as Stoutland coached the Eagles line to a extremely bodily displaying in opposition to San Francisco.
Mailata completed the sport with zero sacks or hurries and even pancaked the imposing Nick Bosa on one play.
“It really shows how much work he’s put in, being a guy who had to learn the whole entire position as a whole, learning to be a right tackle and eventually a left tackle from playing rugby,” Franklin mentioned.
“Now he’s going to be protecting Jalen Hurts’ blindside on the biggest stage and in the biggest game of his career. So many people when they are under pressure like that, they sometimes quit or just can’t handle it.
“He just embraced it and now he’s one of the better left tackles in the league.”
‘CHANGING THE GAME’: A LEGACY BEING LEFT BEHIND
NBC Philadelphia’s Rob Kuestner described it as “the best story in the NFL”, worthy of a Hollywood film and will Mailata’s unbelievable rise to stardom ever hit the large screens, the Australian is aware of precisely who would play him.
“That’s an easy one… ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” he laughed, speaking to News Corp forward of Monday’s sport.
But don’t let Mailata’s jovial manner idiot you. There can also be one other aspect to the 25-year-old, one which sheds a light-weight on why he sacrificed a lot to play in a sport he knew so little about.
“I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” Mailata mentioned earlier this week.
“That’s probably the reason I’m here in America in the first place. I can’t help but prove people wrong.”
He’s executed simply that and for former Five Dock coach Eid, seeing Mailata chase his desires was sufficient to encourage him to do the identical and open his personal café. Now he’s opening his third.
“He’s given you that drive to realise you don’t have to conform to what everyone says you should be doing,” Eid mentioned.
“Jordan was that big boy who always played rugby league and there was that path for him. No one thought the path was in the NFL.”
But that path is rapidly opening up, not simply in Australia however throughout the Pacific, for others together with new NFL International Player Pathway expertise Talitiga Amosa.
Amosa and Baltimore Ravens sort out Daniel Faalele each educated out of Conquest Athletic Performance in Melbourne, the place the fitness center’s director David Tuinauvai helps put together athletes for the transition to American soccer.
Like Mailata, each Faalele and Amosa got here from different sporting backgrounds earlier than assembly Tuinauvai, who has constructed a robust relationship with Chris Naeole, now an Eagles worldwide scout.
“Obviously with their size and athleticism, it’s showing boys that are either too big for rugby or told one thing in terms of their conditioning or agility that [they] can’t do something, now Jordan and Daniel are changing the game,” Tuinauvai instructed foxsports.com.au.
As for Mailata’s success, Tuinauvai mentioned it’s simply one other reminder of why somebody like Amosa remains to be chasing his dream regardless of a number of setbacks.
“We know that if he can do it there’s no reason why Tali can’t take this opportunity with both hands as well,” Tuinauvai added.
That is the legacy Mailata is already forsaking, even along with his profession within the NFL removed from completed — proof that no dream is just too massive.
And by Monday there could possibly be a brand new picture of Mailata hanging on the partitions at Philadelphia’s NovaCare Complex.
One workforce will have fun. Confetti will fall. So will Mailata’s teammates, both in agony or ecstasy. Whatever outcome, regardless of the overwhelming emotion — Mailata shall be there to choose them up.
Source web site: www.foxsports.com.au