Burning NFL desire driving Aussie Eagle
HE is entering his second season in the NFL and is yet to play a game, but Australian Jordan Mailata is determined to create a legacy in American football.
The former South Sydney under-20s forward is on a brief visit back home before he is due to return to the US to start training for the upcoming NFL season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 21-year-old was on the cusp of making his NFL debut on several occasions last year but was overlooked, before a back injury ended his red-shirt - non-playing - rookie season last December.
"They're not going to take someone just because they're a draft pick, you know. It's a business," Mailata said.
Taken with the 233rd pick in last year's draft, Mailata has made a big impression in Philadelphia as he continues to learn the game.
The 157kg, 203cm frame and athleticism of the young Australian drew plenty of early attention.
Now, 12 months later, the Eagles' No.68 offensive tackle shapes as an exciting prospect, yet there's no clear picture on when he may get the call up to play.
"The league is so cutthroat - it's a dog eat dog world," Mailata said. "Everyone is out for themselves.
"Yes, you are a team and you get along with the guy in your unit but you just have to put your best foot forward.
"I know how to work. I just keep grinding. For me, I can't get ahead of myself and say 'I'll be starting next season'.
"But I am very confident in myself and how far I have come in my progression.
"I have one year under my belt now and am getting to understand how it works."
Mailata has been so fixated on his NFL career, he has struggled to keep up with his boyhood sport, rugby league back home.
"To be honest, it's quite hard to keep an eye on other sports," he said. "Sometimes when I'm cruising on social media I see what the boys are doing.
"But I am just trying to focus on American football. That is where I'm at right now."
The Bankstown-born Mailata grew up in Sydney with his sister and three brothers. They are part of his motivation to succeed.
"My personal drive? I am doing this for me. I want to see what I can do, what I can leave behind, try and create a legacy," said Mailata, who attended Condell Park High School growing up.
"I am still young and I understand the opportunity that I have.
"The drive I have comes from my family as well. I come from a family of five siblings. Family is one of my main motivations."
He is still taken aback about going from playing under-20s for Souths in front of a couple of hundred people to the grand stage that is the NFL.
"Sport in America, it's so big it is difficult to explain," Mailata said. "It's phenomenal.
"When you walk out onto the field and there's 60,000 screaming fans - you actually do get a home-ground advantage.
"When you play at home (in Australia) you don't really feel it. The noise and the crowd in America make a difference. When you play away, it changes your game plane. The fans are crazy."
When he finally gets on to the field, his job for the 2018 Super Bowl champions will be defending star quarterback Carson Wentz, who also went down injured last December.
Firstly, Mailata just wants to get healthy again.
"I'm pretty confident but I'm not looking too far ahead," Mailata said. "I've got to get through this little injury and that's really the only thing I am looking at right now, trying to get healthy.
"I still have to take things easy and then hopefully work my work up to where I was 12 weeks ago."
When Mailata was injured late last year, the Eagles website reported "the rookie season for one of the league's most fascinating draft picks is over".
"What they have set up at the Eagles, it's crazy. The brotherhood. At the end of the day, you really feel like you want to help out everyone there," he said.
"The progression … even the play book has progressions. Everything there is centred around a bigger picture.
"It's such a great club, all organised and structured. The veterans, what they've done to build that kind of culture and reputation, it's awesome. It's a great honour to be apart."