Rugby or football Australian Eagles LT Jordan Mailata comments on Super Bowl 57.
Rugby or football Australian Eagles LT Jordan Mailata comments on Super Bowl 57.

In Super Bowl 57, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles will play each other to see who wins the NFL season of 2022.

But as two teams that are pretty evenly matched get ready to play, another question was “settled” in the days before Super Sunday: Is football or rugby harder?

No one knows this more than the left tackle for the Eagles. Jordan Mailata, who grew up in Australia and played rugby professionally, weighed in when asked about the main differences between the two sports.

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“Everything. Mentally, physically, with the playbook, and by learning the moves. I think the difference between the two sports is that rugby is such a free-flowing sport, right? “And we all know how many times a football game is stopped,” he said.

“There is so much skill involved in football—like it’s a game of chess—that if you step just 6 inches too far, you could mess up the play. From what I’ve seen, I really do think that football is much harder than rugby.”

Mailata then laughed, which was his signature move, even though he knew a lot of Australian reporters were around him.

He added, “But don’t come at me now.” “You have to try football, and then we can talk.”

Mailata, who is now 25, decided to try football five years ago, and that decision changed his life.

After watching this huge man move around a rugby field, NFL scouts invited Mailata to join the league’s International Player Pathway Program, which looks for prospects outside the U.S. and Canada. In 2018, he worked out at different pre-draft workouts and trained at the IMG Academy in Florida. Mailata said that in what he called a “rigorous” curriculum, he felt like a “guinea pig.” He and the other international players had to ride bikes around IMG while prospects going to the scouting combine in Indianapolis that year were driven around in golf carts.

Mailata said, “That was a great reason to try to beat them to the next place.”

But his athleticism and size—at 6’8″ and 365 pounds, Mailata is now one of the most intimidating players in the league—impressed the Eagles enough that year that they used a seventh-round pick on him.

He spent his first two seasons on injured reserve and never played in a game because he was still learning the rules of football. But by 2020, Mailata had improved so much that he started at one of the best positions in the game.

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The analytics website Pro Football Focus ranked Mailata as the NFL’s fifth-best left tackle in 2022. He said, “My goal every day was to get 1% better.”

“I think the hardest thing I had to get over was the expectations. Other people didn’t have any for me, but I thought they did. And you have to come here every day and try to get better. Well how do you do that? ” The most important thing I learned from the international programme was that as a player from another country, I had to work twice as hard as an American player.

So that’s what Mailata did. He often stayed late after practise and worked hard to learn from veteran offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who became something of a personal guru.

“So when I meet him for the first time, I know he plays rugby. When asked about Mailata’s journey, Stoutland told USA TODAY Sports, “I don’t know if he can play football.” “I figure him out, and I’m very happy. I look at opportunities. Mr. Lurie, who owns the Eagles, would always tell me, “Don’t look at now. Look two or three years from now and try to imagine what this player could be.” “The player has to have certain traits you’re looking for, and that’s helpful. And when they start to pile up, you think, “Hmm, this could be something.” Then you have to figure out how well he can learn all the things he needs to learn. “A lot of work went into that.”

And Mailata was a willing student. He listened to Stoutland’s advice and learned everything from the basics of offensive line play to the lingo of football in a short amount of time.

Mailata kept getting better.

Mailata said of Stoutland, “He was probably one of the most important coaches I’ve ever had.” “But when my career was on the line, he was always there to pick me up or put me back down, and he taught me a lot. He taught me how to play the position, how to be a good person, and how to be a great teammate.

It did work.

“What I really like about Jordan is that in many ways, he’s like a protector,” said Nick Sirianni, the head coach of the Eagles. “Like, it’s his job to protect the quarterback. And that’s just how he is as a teammate. He looks out for his teammates, loves them, and fights for them. So, really, really important to this team. Guys like him a lot because he’s a great football player.

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And it doesn’t hurt to be able to model your game after fellow blockers like centre Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, and former Eagle Jason Peters, who was Mailata’s predecessor on the blind side. Kelce, Johnson, and Peters have all won All-Pro honours more than once.

“His path is very unique. No other player that I know of has ever really done this. “It’s cool to see how far he’s come from where he was when he first got here to where he is now,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports. “I think he’s just getting started with what he’s going to be.” No one can really beat a guy who is that big and moves that quickly.

It’s also hard to compete with Mailata’s outgoing personality and his very loud voice, which match his huge size.

He made a joke about how Auto-Tune has helped his career on Wednesday.

Still, he did a great job on “A Philly Special Christmas,” which just came out and featured Johnson and Kelce.

Mailata told the USA TODAY Network in December, “I’ve always known I could sing, so when people tell me they’re surprised, I just want to say, ‘You should hear me when I’m drunk; I’m even better.'”

The goal now is to keep improving at football. Mailata takes Stoutland’s advice and doesn’t believe all the recent praise for him, like the attention he got for shutting down San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa in the NFC championship game. Bosa is the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Mailata says that such praise is like taking poison.

And Stoutland knows that his student still has a lot to learn and needs to clear up some inconsistencies.

He said, “He’s still young and hasn’t played that many games.” “I think that’s where his potential can really grow and get better as he plays the game and goes through more situations.” I’ve already seen that happen to him this year. Maybe he got beat up. The next time, he knows about it, so he acts faster.”

What advice would you give to people who want to be NFL stars, especially if they come from an unusual background like rugby? Mailata gave them.

He told him, “If you’re going to do it, man, go all out.” “There is no Plan B. Just put in your best effort, because it’s not easy. You won’t pick it up in a year, and neither did I.”

But after Mailata got out of that mess before the draught in 2018, it seems like he has a pretty good idea of what’s going on as he heads into the biggest game of his life.

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