Los Angeles (AFP) – The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles made Australian Jordan Mailata the 233rd overall pick in the NFL draft on Saturday, hoping the towering 20-year-old can successfully transition from rugby league to American football.
“It’s been an absolute brainstorm of an experience,” Mailata told NFL Draft Live after being selected in the seventh round of the annual intake of new talent.
Mailata, who previously suited up for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the National Rugby League, had admitted earlier to NFL.com that he wasn’t expecting to be drafted.
But his imposing physical attributes likely convinced the Eagles to take a chance that Mailata, listed as an offensive tackle, could earn a place on their roster.
He’s six feet, eight inches tall (2.03 metres) and 346 pounds (157 kilograms) — and wowed scouts at his pro day demonstration by running the 40-yard dash in 5.12 seconds.
In recent months, Mailata has been training and studying the intricacies of the game at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, trying to fast-track his pursuit of his NFL dream.
The Eagles traded up from their 250th pick to the number 233 spot to take Mailata with their final selection of the proceedings.
“I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life,” said Mailata, who arrived on Saturday in Dallas — where the draft began amid massive fanfare at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium on Thursday.
“There were a lot of emotions today … especially when it came down to the last 30 picks, but it’s been a great experience as a whole,” he said.
Mailata said he first began mulling an attempt to break into the NFL in November.
“Definitely wasn’t something I took lightly,” he said. “It took me about two months to make my mind up. The fans here are very passionate and very outspoken here, and hopefully I can earn their respect.”
Jarryd Hayne left a lucrative NRL contract to pursue a career in the NFL in 2015, but experienced only fleeting success in his lone campaign with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Eagles have taken a look at rugby talent before, signing Canadian sevens player Adam Zaruba as an undrafted free agent in July of 2017.
He was waived in September, but the Eagles have since re-signed him to a reserve/futures contract — a move that indicates they still feel he has NFL potential.