It seems remarkable that former rugby player Jordan Mailata was able to make an NFL roster less than a year after he began playing American football.
Even Mailata said he was shocked on Saturday when he found out he made the Eagles' 53-man roster.
Apparently, though, this was the plan all along.
"When we made this pick, we committed in the draft room that we knew it wasn't going to be a short-term process," Eagles VP of football operations Howie Roseman revealed Saturday evening. "And if we were just going to get into camp and say, ‘hey, the guy is raw' and not really have this developmental mindset that we had to give him a two-year time period to get it right, it wouldn't have made sense for us to trade two picks for him.
"So, we committed at that moment that, hey, if the guy looks like he has the traits we think he has, then we're going to commit to him and we're going to develop him and we're going to have him on our 53, and he's just going to be the 53rd guy."
You read that right: Two-year time period.
That means the Eagles are committed to keeping a project player even if he can't play for a while.
On Saturday, Roseman also revealed that the Eagles actually thought about taking Mailata in the sixth round, but were happy to get TCU's Matt Pryor, who had a fuller resume. So when the seventh round came and Mailata was still available, the Eagles traded up to get him.
It's pretty clear offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had a lot to do with the Eagles' decision to draft Mailata as a project. Roseman on Saturday told the story of when Stout went down to Florida to put Mailata through a workout.
That's when the Eagles found out Stout was enamored with Mailata - the veteran OL coach began to send back multiple videos of Mailata going through the workout. Roseman said there were around 40 of them.
"He's only done that a handful of times with guys, so we knew the passion," Roseman said. "And then we saw the workout, and it was incredibly impressive."
The Eagles knew Mailata was a special athlete, but even they weren't expecting him to come along so quickly as an offensive tackle. Roseman called the rookie's progress "incredible." Mailata played his first ever football game in July and by the time the fourth preseason game came around, he was outperforming guys who at least played college football for a few years.
"When we were in the draft room and decided to trade two seventh-round picks for a rugby player – you know, you say it out loud and it's kind of funny," Roseman said.
It doesn't seem so funny any more.