When the Philadelphia Eagles picked up Australian Jordan Mailata, his hulking size was likely a big draw card.
The former South Sydney Rabbitohs junior who had never played a snap of American football in his life was taken in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
Now 21, Mailata is 203cm tall and weighs 157kg.
He also moves well. In one of the rare glimpses into his improvement as an American footballer, he received rave reviews in the pre-season before being put on ice and working behind the scenes as a potential future star.
He was even tipped by former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker to go All-Pro.
The Eagles’ plan to get him there? More weight.
“I’ve put on a fair bit. My playing weight — they (the Eagles) want me at 360 (pounds, or 163kg),” he told ESPN.
Already an imposing man, the extra weight will just add to the hulking Aussie.
Entering the NFL without any experience, Mailata has had to learn plenty and was taken under the wings of the veterans in the side to find his place.
“I just reflect on how far I’ve come and just look at when I started, what I had and what I’ve learned,” Mailata said.
“It’s a big credit not just to myself but also the people that were in my corner, down to the coaches and my fellow peers.
“You know I could walk through the doors and they could easily be like ‘oh this is a rugby guy. What do you think you’re doing? Is he crazy?’ You know they could just toss me out on the street, but they welcomed me with open arms and I think every day they challenged me to get better and I developed and adopted that mindset.
“So it helped me progress further and further every week and challenged my mindset because, you know, it was tough. It wasn’t easy. Such a long road.
“You know, it just makes you appreciate the opportunities that I had.”
While Mailata made the Eagles 53-man squad, it was always unlikely he would make it onto the field in a live NFL match.
The plan was always to target 2019 with Mailata labelled a “long-term project”.
But a back injury also ended his season early and he was placed on the injured reserve list.
The Philadelphia Eagles website reported at the time “the rookie season for one of the league’s most fascinating draft picks is over”.
“I guess when I got put on Injured Reserve I learnt a lot about myself and my limit to what I can handle just overworking myself,” he said.
“So I guess as a rookie you feel pressure to just keep working and keep working and that’s one thing that this year just to know where your limit is and it’s okay to not look like you’re slacking off. Know your limit.
“I guess having one year under my belt now certainly gives me a level of confidence going into next season and now that I feel very confident in myself. And then knowing the playbook, you know the coaches want somebody they can trust in the field. So the more time and more work that you put in the more you can get out of it.”
And with extra size, Mailata will be a terrifying prospect for teammates in training camp and opposition teams if he can get out on the field.
Late last month, Mailata told news.com.au about one of the biggest moment when the sport started to click for him.
Coming from a Samoan background, American football was a massive learning curve for the young Aussie.
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One particularly brutal moment from his first fortnight training on US soil stood out for Mailata as his “welcome to America” moment.
“I remember it was training camp, week two. We were doing a drill where it was one-on-one,” Mailata recalled. “I rose way too high and exposed my chest … I just got bullrushed. Helmet to the face and put on my a***.”
“His name was Steven Means — he just got contracted again with the Atlanta Falcons.”
Mailata learned very quickly that technique is everything. He remembers “everyone making a big deal” of his knockdown, which came from the comparatively minuscule (1.9m) Means.
“It didn’t trouble me or worry me. I said ‘I’m going to learn from this’. He told me ‘you come up too early, I knew you’d be playing on your tippy toes so I just tried to bull you because that’s the best move’.
“By the end of the training camp … I wasn’t getting bullrushed anymore.”