The idea was borne of necessity. Jordan Mailata, a rugby player with a stellar highlight reel from his games with Australia’s South Sydney Rabbitohs team, had, quite literally, outgrown his sport.
Enter football. NFL football, to be exact.
Mailata spent the past four months learning football and how to block at the IMG training facility in Florida. His agent sent a highlight reel to NFL scouts, hoping that Mailata, who stands 6-foot-8, weighs 346 pounds and was named after Michael Jordan, might impress a team thirsty for a lineman. Bingo. On Saturday evening, the Philadelphia Eagles made a bold move with their final pick in the NFL draft, taking the 21-year-old man who has never played organized football. Eight teams were interested in him, but the Eagles were either impressed or intrigued enough to make a trade with the New England Patriots, moving up 17 spots to take him in the seventh round with the 233rd pick. The Eagles also sent a 2019 seventh-round pick to the Patriots.
And no one was more surprised than Mailata when he received a phone call.
“Honestly I thought it was just going to be another chat to my agent, because I had received two phone calls earlier from other clubs just asking for my agent’s contact details,” he told Australia’s Fox Sports. “So when they called me — it was the scout that picked me up at the pro day — all I did was say, ‘Hello’, asking what it was. He said, ‘I’m going to put you on the phone to Howie.’ ”
(That would be Howie Roseman, the Eagles’ general manager.)
“I broke down. I think it was a lot of emotions today,” Mailata added. “I didn’t know how I was feeling, especially when it came down to the last 30 picks; I was really nervous.”
Mailata, whose first name is Lafoga, received his middle name of Jordan from his then 10-year-old sister, who was allowed to name her new baby brother and liked the NBA Hall of Famer. His parents, who are Samoan, moved to New Zealand and then to Australia years before his birth. As a kid, he fell for rugby, playing the sport until he got too big for it.
By Cindy Boren April 30 I The Washington Post