Former Rabbitoh Mailata drafted by Eagles
Jordan Mailata will make the switch from rugby league to the NFL with the Super Bowl champions after he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles used their final pick of the 2018 draft on Mailata, a former South Sydney Rabbitohs Under-20s prop who has no experience of American football but whose athleticism and 6'8" and 346-pound size has impressed the NFL.
Mailata's agent sent a highlight reel to the NFL's International Player Pathway program as a backup plan to gaining an NRL deal with the Rabbitohs.
That led to a workout in Los Angeles in November and he was then selected to train at IMG in Florida, where he held a Pro Day led by Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who will now serve as his full-time position coach as he looks to make the team as a tackle.
"Towards the end of my rugby last year I composed a little highlight video, as a back up, to figure out what I was going to do with my life," Mailata told NFL Network.
"My agent knew some NFL people who ran this international program and I was fortunate enough to get their attention. They flew me out to LA last November and I worked out for them and I was fortunate enough to get on the program.
"I will only be 21 years of age so I thought why not give it a try, I am still young.
"I was considered one of the biggest rugby league players. I started training for the last four months to try and pick up the game of football. I am far behind but it is a challenge and it is something I knew I had to take on."
Another challenge he was tasked with was the difficult one of trying to explain the Rabbitohs nickname, based on the calls of rabbit sellers near South Sydney's old Redfern Oval ground at the turn of the 20th century, to an American audience.
"It's pretty much a rabbit," he added. "It's called a Rabbitoh. I am not sure who came up with that name, but it is pretty much a rabbit."
Mailata is following in the footsteps of NRL star Jarryd Hayne, who did not go through the draft but was signed as a free agent by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015.
Hayne made the 49ers roster after starring in preseason and played in eight games in his sole NFL season. He ran for 52 yards on 17 carries, caught six passes for 27 yards and returned eight punts for 76 yards.