Inside Jordan Mailata’s NFL journey after heart condition led to him switching sports and moving to US five years ago –

JORDAN Mailata watched just one American football game a year while growing up in Australia – and now he’s playing in it.

The 6ft 8ins, 166kg monster broke down in tears after his Philadelphia Eagles sealed their Super Bowl berth.


Jordan Mailata only watched one NFL game a year when he younger – and now he’s playing in itCredit: Getty
Jordan Mailata was raised in Sydney to Samoan parents and left for the US five years ago


Jordan Mailata was raised in Sydney to Samoan parents and left for the US five years agoCredit: Instagram

For Mailata, 25, his NFL dream to play on the biggest stage were realised after leaving home five years ago and switching sports.

The offensive tackle was one of five kids raised by their Samoan parents in a Sydney suburb.

He grew up dreaming of being a rugby league star in the NRL down under.

But he collapsed during preseason training when he was just 17 years old and diagnosed with a heart condition.

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Mailata’s rugby league hopes were stopped in their tracks, but 18 months later he continued pursuing his dream and was back playing the game.

He created a highlight tape when he was 20 years old but had no offers from NRL teams.

Mailata was told he was ‘too big’ to play in the NRL so booked a one-way flight to the US in 2018 to pursue a different dream.

He trained in Florida as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway, where his size and skill caught the eye of Eagles scouts.

Philadelphia took a chance on Mailata in the 2018 NFL Draft – selecting him in the seventh round with the 233rd overall pick.

He signed a four-year deal worth just £2.1million and carried on learning the gridiron game.

Mailata has developed into one of the stars on his team, and in 2021 he landed a new four-year deal worth £53million.

The 25-year-old said this week: “It’s surreal. You take a look around at all the cameras and all these people here, I think I’m at a Wrestlemania event.

“If you grow up in a Samoan household, you know you need your parents’ blessing.

“So for my parents to give me their blessing and to allow me to do my thing here.

“Skipping school (to watch the Super Bowl), I probably shouldn’t have done that.

“But I didn’t understand the game, I was just watching it mostly for the halftime performances. That’s a real story.”

Mailata’s family finally got to see him play on New Year’s Day this year.

His dad Tupa’i, mum Maria and brother Millo all flew to the US on Christmas Day.

And they were at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field for the January 1 showdown against the New Orleans Saints.

Maria said: “My husband wanted to watch his son play in the stadium and his wish came true.

“Watching Jordan and his dream come true now. We are so happy for that.”

Mailata, 25, recalled: “I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. We were texting back and forth.

“They were saying the flight is still on, and I’m saying, ‘Are you sure?’

“We went back and forth, but I drove over there and picked them up. It was a tear-jerker.”

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“My dad was in for a shock when we went grocery shopping.

“We had a handful of fans stop by and say hi – my dad was shocked. I was like, ‘This is the city, Dad!’ They love their teams. They know who you are without the uniform.”

Jordan Mailata only began playing the game in 2018


Jordan Mailata only began playing the game in 2018Credit: Getty
He's now one of the stars of the Eagles and set to play in the Super Bowl


He’s now one of the stars of the Eagles and set to play in the Super BowlCredit: Getty

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