Shortly after he was drafted by the Eagles in the seventh round, Jordan Mailata admitted that he knew "peanuts" about the game of football.
The 21-year-old rugby player from Australia had never played a down of American football. Following the end of the 2017 season for his U-20 team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, the 6-8, 346-pound Mailata couldn't get a full-time contract with a team because he was asked to lose weight. That's tough to do when you have just 10 percent body fat. He decided to pursue a career in the NFL and trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida since the start of the year.
Brandon Brown, the Eagles' assistant director of pro scouting, put Mailata on offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland's radar. Stoutland ran Mailata's private Pro Day workout at IMG in April.
The physical tools were evident from his YouTube highlight reel but Stoutland needed to be convinced that Mailata could learn a game that he admitted he knew "peanuts" about and play it at its highest level.
"I have to know if you understand that this isn't rugby where you just get the ball and you run and smash into people. You've got to know what angle to take. The whole game is about angles and he did pretty good with that," Stoutland said of his Pro Day workout. "My sense is that his personality, his mindset, he was ready and willing to work. He's not an overanalytical guy. A lot of these players are overanalytical and they stump themselves. He isn't afraid to make a mistake."
After Friday's first Rookie Camp practice, Mailata thanked his teammates for helping support him and Stoutland for coaching him hard.
"He's frustrated when he sees potential and I'm not fulfilling it. I just need to keep my head in the books, keep understanding my assignment, and keep giving 100 percent effort," Mailata said.
"I really love his coaching style. He just throws you out into the deep end. He threw me out into the deep end. Thank God I had the guys up front help me. They're pretty much my lifejacket. I love his coaching style. It's great. As far as learning, that's the best way to learn - the hard way and kind of learn as you go. Coming from no experience, it's something I have to adapt to quite fast. That's the style they want me to play it."
Mailata isn't the only international rugby convert participating in the Rookie Camp. Tight end Adam Zaruba was signed by the Eagles in the middle of Training Camp last year and brought back after the season on a futures contract. Zaruba played high school football in Canada before turning to rugby. Even with limited experience on the gridiron, Zaruba understands the challenge ahead for Mailata.
"It's definitely a different beast. Football is such a different sport. I honestly just forgot everything that I knew and I just go forward and learn what I'm supposed to do," Zaruba said. "We have similar mindsets. We want to succeed here. We're applying ourselves to that. It's going to be a process. Every day we keep working with the coaches. They brought us here. They see something in us."
Mailata still only knows peanuts about the game and knows he has a long way to go. He's got the right coach in Stoutland and a veteran group willing to lend a hand.
"Jason Peters is the king of that. He always spends extra time with those guys. Lane Johnson, I wouldn't be surprised if Lane already reached out to him. Our guys are all like that," Stoutland said. "They want to continue to be good and stay on top and they know what that takes. That's the great part of the guys I coach. There are no insecurities. These guys care about their teammates and they're trying to get the best out of everybody. It's part of being accountable to your teammates."