Over the next few weeks of training camp, as the Eagles try to decide who to keep on their 53-man roster, we'll be catching up weekly with former Australian rugby player and Eagles' seventh-round pick Jordan Mailata to track his progress as he tries to defy the odds and make the Eagles' roster less than a year after starting his quest to play American football.
On Day 1 of training camp, it took all of about four minutes until Jordan Mailata received a message from a screaming Jeff Stoutland. The offensive line coach wanted to let the huge 21-year-old know what he's in for.
"OTAs are over!" Stoutland shouted.
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Pretty soon, Mailata understood exactly what his coach meant. The biggest guy on the team went through all the spring practices with the Eagles. He was there for OTAs and for the mandatory minicamp, but neither of them compare to what he's seen during the first two days of training camp at the NovaCare Complex.
"It's way different than OTAs," Mailata said after Day 2. "There's more intensity here, the intensity has risen so much, especially with the heat in our faces all the time."
Mailata got back to Philadelphia about a week ago, last Friday, after spending the previous four weeks in his home country of Australia. While back at home, the 6-foot-8 offensive tackle did his best to continue physically training and working on technique, but Down Under there aren't a ton of extra tools for someone hoping to hone their skills in American football.
"I had some people helping me out, but at the same time, it did feel like I was on my own," Mailata said.
He said he went home because he didn't have a place to stay here in Philadelphia and since he's unsure about whether or not he'll make the team and be here long term, he decided to head home. At least he got to see his friends and family.
He doesn't have much time for friends or family right now, so it's probably just as well that they're thousands of miles away. For the first two days of training camp, Mailata has been putting in 12-hour days. He wakes up at 6 a.m., spends all day at the NovaCare Complex working out, practicing, going to meetings and studying, gets to rest his eyes for a few hours, before waking up at 6 and doing it all again.
NFL training camp is something very new to Mailata. When he played rugby, they didn't really have a training camp, just a long preseason that lasted three or four months with a ton of running. He admitted this is a new intensity in the heat, with the helmets and the pads … and then he remembered all the pads haven't even come on yet.
The Eagles' first padded practice will come tomorrow.
"I'm going to have jelly legs tomorrow," he said. "If my legs feel like this today, I can only imagine what they're going to feel like tomorrow."
Mailata realizes how difficult all of this is. Most of his teammates who are battling for the same roster spots as him have been playing football for most of their lives. He's been doing it less than a year. Sometimes, he definitely thinks about his chances to make the team; it's what motivates him. But at other times, he needs to push that to the back of his mind and focus on the little things that Stoutland wants him to focus on. If he doesn't, Stout will let him know.
It's a long training camp and Mailata is just beginning.
His goal for the next week
"I think I just want to be more intelligent with reading defensive players, assessing the (defensive) end. That's the one place where I'm struggling at the moment."