Philadelphia Eagles' Jordan Mailata ready to make a huge NFL impact

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Jordan Mailata 1-on-1: Eagles want me bigger & better (3:28)

Jordan Mailata discusses the toughest lessons he faced in his rookie season, and reveals that the Philadelphia Eagles wanted him to get bigger than his original 346-pound frame. (3:28)

He's the big man from Sydney who is about to get even bigger. Jordan Mailata, the Philadelphia Eagles' rookie offensive lineman from 2018 is under instruction to increase in size as the 21 year-old Australian looks to convert potential into NFL reality in 2019.

"I've put on a fair bit. My playing weight - they (the Eagles) want me at 360 (pounds, or 163kg)," he told ESPN during a trip home to Sydney.

Standing at 6 foot 8 inches, and carrying some extra bulk, Mailata will cut an imposing figure when he reports back to camp, following a rookie year that may not have seen the Sydney native take a snap, but did see Mailata turn more than a few heads and become a popular member of the Philly locker room. It's been quite a journey for the former rugby league junior.

"I just reflect on how far I've come and just look at when I started, what I had and what I've learned. It's a big credit not just to myself but also the people that were in my corner, down to the coaches and my fellow peers," Mailata tells ESPN.

"You know I could walk through the doors and they could easily be like 'oh this is a rugby guy. What do you think you're doing? Is he crazy?' You know they could just toss me out on the street, but they welcomed with open arms and I think every day they challenged me to get better and I developed and adopted that mindset. So it helped me progress further and further every week and challenged my mindset because, you know, it was tough. It wasn't easy. Such a long road.

"You know, it just makes you appreciate the opportunities that I had."

It's the steepest of learning curves. From a rugby league-playing teen, to rostered NFL player in 18 months. It's a transition that Mailata has taken in his considerable stride, leaning on an impressive array of veterans in the Eagles organisation for support.

"The general message from all the veterans -- besides the playbook and teaching me all the tips of how to place your hands, your foot, playing low hips -- I think the general gist at the end of it all, was learn how to schedule everything, because it's so hard to schedule," he says. "Separate work and your private life. So they told me to get into a routine and just try and relax the mind a bit, get into recovery habits and that's the most important thing mentally. Your body will be hurting and it'll have an effect on mental health so it's just the one thing they told me was try to get into a routine and help your body recover more."

Recovery is a key word for Mailata, whose hopes of a late season appearance were dashed by a lower back injury that saw him end up on the IR. It taught Mailata a lesson to take into a new season.

"I guess when I got put on Injured Reserve I learnt a lot about myself and my limit to what I can handle just overworking myself," he says. "So I guess as a rookie you feel pressure to just keep working and keep working and that's one thing that this year just to know where your limit is and it's okay to not look like you're slacking off. Know your limit.

"I guess having one year under my belt now certainly gives me a level of confidence going into next season and now that I feel very confident in myself. And then knowing the playbook, you know the coaches want somebody they can trust in the field. So the more time and more work that you put in the more you can get out of it."

The Eagles are entering a crossroads year, with salary cap pressures, ageing stars and major name departures. All of that combined offers hope that if Mailata continues his trajectory, continues his development, then regular snaps may not be far away.

"I'm just trying to focus on where I'm at right now. I just try to focus on getting healthy again. So that's my biggest concern," he says. "I'm not looking towards that starting role yet. We try to get past the first one and just keep going on from there but that is one of my goals I want to be out on that paddock. I want to be able to have my parents see me play. So you know that's one of my goals."

Mailata got plenty of practice with the scout team in 2018, looking after the blind side for the now departed Nick Foles. For 2019, under the tutelage of resigned veteran Jason Peters, Mailata has identified key areas he knows the focus should be on.

"Not many people know this but I was getting a ton of reps last year during practice. I was so close to playing this year." he says. "I guess (my focus this year is) all the things that I can always improve on, hand placement and foot placement and just learning the playbook again. But one thing I really want to learn is to play with low hips and that's something that was I was challenged on last year just trying to play low hips and then get that centre of gravity down and see what I can do."

Mailata is a trailblazer in many senses, converting from another sport in a key position role, and emerging through the NFL International pathway, a program that is attracting similar converts from Australia, like former NRL representative player Valentine Holmes. Mailata knows what it takes to make it.

"I did say this to Val (Holmes) and then the rugby player down there from England, Christian Wade, and people asked me if you have any advice for them. I've been telling them this. I said 'don't dip your toe in the water. Drown in it and learn how to swim again'. That's the only way, that's the way I learnt.

"Just give it everything you've got and if you fail you fail. At least you can wake up and say 'I gave it my all'.

"Some people dip their toe in and say 'oh it's too cold'. I don't want to hear that. Just do it."