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Australian Philadelphia Eagles NFL star Jordan Mailata is no longer just ‘the rugby man’

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Jordan Mailata, the NFL star Rabbitoh, shrugs off the rugby label he has been labeled with in both Australia and the US – with the 203cm, 157kg behemoth is now arguably one of the best tackles in the league.

Mailata’s rags-to-riches story began in Bankstown, in western Sydney, with the son of Samoan immigrants wearing South Sydney’s iconic cardinal and myrtle before being picked up in the 2018 NFL draw.

After signing a monster $88 million contract last season, he is no longer the project player who used to play rugby.

He is ranked as one of the four left tackles in the league, which is essentially the second most important position on the field, after quarterback, of course.

Aussie NFL star Jordan Mailata, pictured with fiancé Niki Ikahihifo-Bender, gets credit for 22/23 season kicking off for his Philadelphia Eagles

Not that Mailata listens to the applause; of which there are MANY.

‘I always have room to improve. My game can grow ten times a year. My knowledge of the game, identifying covers and seeing the blitz, getting the mentality of a quarterback,” said the surprisingly mild-mannered Aussie ESPN earlier this week.

‘I can still learn so much technology. There are some plays where I see myself very bluntly and I think, ‘that was a pretty crappy rep, how can I get better?’

Jordan Mailata prepares to block in Eagles preseason game against the Jets on August 30

Jordan Mailata prepares to block in Eagles preseason game against the Jets on August 30

Of course he can improve.

The nuances of playing left tackle and protecting the blind side (yes, like Michael Oher in Sandra Bullock’s famous movie) of his dynamic Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts are unnoticeable to most.

He must have the footwork of a ballerina in a phone booth, despite being over 6 feet tall and weighing nearly 160 pounds.

Sounds impossible to someone who didn’t put on a football helmet until 2018, right?

Jordan Mailata, pictured with fiancé Niki Ikahihifo-Bender, at training camp

Jordan Mailata, pictured with fiancé Niki Ikahihifo-Bender, at training camp

With the “growth mindset” that the former Rabbitohs bulldozer so often talks about, he has made the impossible possible.

Just stop calling him the ex-Rabbitoh, because he’s much more than that.

“This is something I’ve wanted since I started picking up the game,” Mailata told ESPN.

“I wasn’t trying to get rid of the ‘oh the rugby player can play’. I just wanted to be seen as the footballer, as a left tackle.’

A laughing Jordan Mailata does not listen to the applause;  he just focuses on getting better and better every day for the Eagles

A laughing Jordan Mailata does not listen to the applause; he just focuses on getting better and better every day for the Eagles

And boy, is he a great footballer.

Recently released stats show Mailata is the best gear in the league when it comes to an island.

Yes, it is so big and imposing that it is literally called an island.

Jordan Mailata (right) and Noah Togiai (left) block in Eagles' preseason game against the Jets.  Mailata is 203 cm and 157 kg

Jordan Mailata (right) and Noah Togiai (left) block in Eagles’ preseason game against the Jets. Mailata is 203 cm and 157 kg

Essentially, this stat refers to how often an offensive tackle manages to block his opponent when left all alone (taking into account a five-player offensive line and they face multiple defenders).

Prominent ranking experts Pro Football Focus have Mailata as the third best tackle in the league based on his 2021 season.

Scary, he’s only going to get better as he’s already playing football a third of the time from most of his US teammates and opponents.

Jordan Mailata is one of the most dominant tackles in the league, but the Aussie only started playing the game four years ago

Jordan Mailata is one of the most dominant tackles in the league, but the Aussie only started playing the game four years ago

In arguably the best of recent accolades, one of the NFL’s top analytics experts, Cynthia Frelund, named the Aussie number 10 in her list of underrated players (of any position).

Using her somewhat complicated, but insightful stats, Frelund identified “the 10 players we don’t talk about enough based on their performance.”

Of particular interest to the top expert was her “win-share” stat, which essentially adds up all the positive plays on and off the ball, while subtracting the negative.

The giant Sydneysider got a lot of credit for what could be one of the NFL’s most important stats: helping your team win a football game.

It's rare to see a photo of Jordan Mailata, pictured here at training camp in late July, not smiling or having any sort of animated expression - he's a very popular figure with his teammates

It’s rare to see a photo of Jordan Mailata, pictured here at training camp in late July, not smiling or having any sort of animated expression – he’s a very popular figure with his teammates

“Mailata was one of the biggest win-share missile ships in my entire 20-season monster,” Frelund wrote on NFL.com last month.

A dominant line of attack from Eagles, a prodigious array of players in skill positions and a dynamite defense are expected to bring many wins this season; they must exploit their undisputed potential.

They are the firm favorite this Monday (3pm, AEST) as they travel to the frigid confines of Detriot to take on last year’s basement dwellers, the Lions, for another winable match-up next Monday after the Vikings.

Jordan Mailata is not only a talented football player, he can also sing.  He is pictured here opening for American RnB sensation Ne-Yo in July

Jordan Mailata is not only a talented football player, he can also sing. He is pictured here opening for American RnB sensation Ne-Yo in July

He’s not just a talented footballer either – his singing voice is so good that he opened for RnB sensation Ne-Yo and appeared in The Masked Singer.

Singer, footballer and a typical Australian down-to-earth guy.

Hell, he could even become a Super Bowl winner and All-Pro would soon be leaving the tackle, if lead pundit Brian Baldinger gets his way.

Just don’t call him the ‘rugby guy’.

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