NFL Super Bowl 2023: Picture of Jordan Mailata used to inspire Eagles, Philadelphia Eagles vs Kansas City Chiefs

There’s an image hanging on the walls at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia that is Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s favourite — but not for the reason you’d expect.

Dejected, defeated and beaten down, Jalen Hurts was left broken in the middle of MetLife Stadium.

He had just played the worst game of his young career, completing just 14 of 31 passes for 129 yards and three interceptions in a 13-7 loss to the Giants.

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It was 2021, Jordan Mailata’s first season as Philadelphia’s starting left tackle and while the Australian was still learning the game, he had never forgotten what it meant to be a teammate.

So, when Hurts was in need of someone to pick him up, Mailata was there. And it is a moment that coach Sirianni wanted everyone else in the team to remember.

“There’s one picture that’s up with Jordan Mailata with his hand on Jalen’s [Hurts] back,” Sirianni said back in December before Hurts’ first trip to MetLife since that game.

“Jalen has his hands on his knees. He’s looking down. Jordan has his hand on his back.

“I thought what an unbelievable picture of teammates being there for each other in a time of a very tough spot.”

Much like former Eagles tackle Jason Peters before him, Mailata takes his job of protecting the quarterback seriously. That protection comes in different forms, like when he confronted Quincy Williams after the Jets linebacker flattened Hurts in the pre-season.

But it also comes in moments like that shared with Hurts after the Giants game, one which Mailata told NBC Sports Philadelphia he would “never forget”.

“It’s almost like he’s Hurts’ personal bodyguard,” Chris Franklin, Eagles beat reporter for NJ Advance Media, told

“You saw Mailata put his hand on his [Hurts’] shoulder like, ‘I got you and it will be OK’. And you flip to that where there’s been games where Jordan may not have been extremely sharp but you’ll see Hurts will lift him up.

“It’s a real thing. Mailata really believes in Hurts. He’ll pretty much do anything for him.”

Now Mailata, who used to skip school on a Monday morning to watch the Super Bowl “mainly for the halftime show”, will be protecting Hurts on the biggest stage in American football and in the biggest game of his career.

It is just the latest chapter in Mailata’s self-described “Hollywood movie”, which saw the 25-year-old turn down a $5,000 reserve grade deal from Souths to chase a different dream.

Now he is one of the NFL’s best offensive tackles and was rewarded with a four-year, $64 million contract extension back in 2021.

With the boy from Bankstown on the brink of the league’s ultimate prize, spoke to six people who have been involved in Mailata’s journey to Super Bowl LVII.

They share stories that speak to the Australian’s freakish combination of size, strength and athleticism that put him on the path to the NFL.

But they also shine a light on Mailata the person, the gentle giant who was always there to pick up his teammates, long before that indelible image adorning the NovaCare Complex halls.


Jamie Eid still remembers the one moment when he knew Mailata was going to make something of himself, although he never expected that would involve playing in the Super Bowl.

“You knew he was destined for something,” Eid, Mailata’s former rugby league coach at Five Dock RSL, told

“I remember when he told me he was going to try his hand in the NFL, you believe in it and know he can do it, but for someone like me who knew the sport and how much is involved in it and for him to pick it up in such a short time frame, it’s mind-blowing.”

Mind-blowing, like the moment in a game at Birchgrove Oval where Mailata “ran 100 metres” to score for Five Dock while also “carrying five players on his back”.

That, Eid said, was the moment where he just knew Mailata “was going to do something with his life”.

And funnily enough, Mailata’s NFL journey started with highlight plays not too dissimilar to that one for the Dockers.

But ever since he arrived in America, Mailata has wanted to be known as more than “the boy from the Bankstown Bulls”, his junior rugby league team.

That is not to say that Mailata will ever forget his roots. Far from it actually.

“I know deep down that I’ll never forget my rugby league life,” he said back in 2021.

Mailata just didn’t want to be judged based on who he used to be or given more leeway than everyone else because he was ‘just a rugby player’.

“But he’s not anymore,” Eid said, “he’s the football player.”

“That’s him. He’s not a rugby boy anymore. He’s an NFL player. Watching him make the Super Bowl, even I shed a tear.

“I watched this kid develop from a 16-year-old to where he is now and I had a hand in that. Just seeing that gives you a lot of pride, knowing you had a hand in where he is today.”

And it’s not just Eid who feels that way. He reached out to all of Mailata’s former Five Dock teammates to organise a Super Bowl watch party in a nearby pub.

“We haven’t seen each other in probably about five years,” Eid said.

“Jordan is bringing us back together.”

Like he did when they were all playing together for the Dockers, even going as far as to come up with a variation of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ that later became the team song.

“You can see it when he does interviews, he’s still the same person, which is great,” Eid added.

“A lot of people probably get swept up in the money. He’s got the money but he’s still the same person. That to me is a proud moment. He didn’t lose himself to that.”


Mailata could have also easily lost himself when he was cut by the Bulldogs and then offered just $5,000 by the Rabbitohs, with his sporting future seemingly at a crossroads.

But speak to Ryan Carr, South Sydney’s under-20s coach at the time, and it will quickly become clear that it didn’t matter whether Mailata’s future was in rugby league or not.

He was willing to put in the work to make something of himself.

“He couldn’t make the team early on because physically we had to get him to a point where he could handle the movements required in rugby league,” Carr told

“To his credit, he showed a heap of persistence. He worked really hard. I remember I used to do video with players, they trained towards the afternoon most days because it was a part-time program back then and he’d stay back until nine o’clock at night outside my office.

“He’d wait until everyone had left and he’d want to watch video of other people, just to get better. When you see him doing well now it makes you so happy because he’s so persistent and so hardworking and wanted to make it.”

Carr still remembers the first time he laid eyes on Mailata in the gym at Redfern Oval, and it’s easy to understand why.

After all, as Mailata’s former mentor put it: “You don’t really forget it when you meet someone that big”.

“He sort of stops you in your tracks… he’s such a giant human,” added Carr.

But again what you see and what you actually get when you start to talk to Mailata are two completely different things. Carr compared it to flipping a switch.

“He’s a fierce competitor and physical when he needs to be,” he said.

“He’s got a really good ability as a person to be able to flip that switch and be super aggressive and protective when he needs it.

“But that’s not his character all the time. He’s only that person when he needs to be, which is on the field in the moment. When he’s off the field he’s quite the opposite.

“He’s quietly spoken, polite, very humble, a real family guy and he’s not this big confident aura he might portray. He’s a good team guy, good mate, good friend to people.”

Now assistant coach at the Dragons, Carr said the NRL squad is supposed to be training on Monday morning, although he’s still hoping to catch even just a little bit of the game.

After all, as a keen NFL fan, he understands just how hard Mailata has worked to not just play but excel in one of the sport’s toughest positions.

“To play left tackle for a team in the Super Bowl is quite phenomenal,” Carr said.

“I mean, they made a movie on Michael Oher in The Blind Side. He’s pretty much doing that but in hopefully a Super Bowl-winning team.

“To see him playing at a high level in that position, not just in a good team but contributing so much to how the team is doing, is so impressive. He’s worked so hard and deserves it.”


Carr used to joke with his assistant coaches at South Sydney that Mailata was built for the NFL, such was the impact he was able to make in short bursts with explosive plays.

Like the play Carr kept calling and which was later appropriately named ‘Jordan’, where he would find a way to get Mailata one-on-one with an opposition player. It didn’t matter who.

“If you could get him one-on-one with anyone, he’d pretty much find a way to score,” Carr said.

So, Mailata’s manager put together a highlights package of those exact kind of plays and sent them around to a host of teams, coaches and scouts over in America.

It eventually made its way to Will Bryce and Aden Durde, who were part of the NFL’s international pathways program.

“He and I were working out another player at the time back in London and one of our executives at the time actually forwarded the highlights of Jordan to us and so that was the first time we saw those rugby clips,” Bryce, who is now NFL International’s head of football development, told

All they could go off was what they could see on the screen. So, what were they looking for? Well first, as Bryce joked, they were simply trying to work out if Mailata was really that big.

“Or are the people he’s playing against just short?” Bryce laughed.

“You’re just trying to look at the obvious things, height and the body. Is he in shape?

“Muscle, build and then obviously, with Jordan playing rugby, he’s carrying the ball. So you got to see him open up and run, you got to see the aggression, you got to see his footwork and his agility and for someone that size, really he’s just so talented in that area. It really sets him apart, like you see now.

“So just the basics… then we can progress that and usually meet in person and take it from there.”

They did just that, meeting Mailata and a few other international players in late 2016 at a field in Los Angeles, starting off with all the key measurables you would expect.

“We wanted to try get his official height, weight, arm length, wingspan — all the things that coming up here soon the NFL combine,” Bryce said, adding Mailata was also able to run an impressive 40-yard dash despite having never attempted the drill before.

It wasn’t just Mailata’s physical prowess that sold him as a prospect though.

Rather, his ability to quickly process information and then replicate it on the field proved that more than anything else, Mailata was coachable.

And for someone wanting to learn a playbook that was more like a foreign language, that was important.

“I mean the first rep from the first time he did it to the third time, to the fourth time he was doing it, you could see he just picks things up so naturally,” Bryce said.

“We left there really excited about that opportunity.”

But even before stepping on the field, Mailata had already left a lasting impression when he first met with Bryce and Durde in the NFL’s new headquarters in Los Angeles.

“We sat down in a boardroom and it was a bit more of a serious environment,” Bryce said.

“But the person that Jordan is shone through and you just thought, ‘This guy is, if he doesn’t do this, he’s going to die trying basically’. He’s just going to use all of it.”

Over the next four days, Bryce said Mailata went on to prove he was not just a “special athlete” but “a special person”.

“Just the pride he has for himself and his family, people back home where he’s from, it really drives him and you can see that,” he added.


When Mailata arrived at the IMG Academy in January 2018 as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, he was a blank canvas — literally.

Taryn Morgan, IMG’s Vice President of Athletic and Personal Development, can still remember the first day Mailata walked into the Academy and was asked a relatively simple question.

At least, for anyone who had grown up around the NFL it would’ve been simple. For Mailata though, his answer was proof of just how foreign the sport was to him at that point.

“I really remember one of the coaches asking them about who their favourite NFL player was or who they wanted to play like,” Morgan told

“And he was like, ‘I don’t know anybody’. It was just funny to see how he and some of the others really had no concept of the NFL.”

Even putting on a helmet for the first time was a challenge as Jay Butler, IMG’s former strength and conditioning coach, told

“From him not knowing how to put a helmet on or how to squirt a water bottle, like literally through it [his helmet], it was all over his face, to one of the best tackles in the league and starting for the starting in the Super Bowl is an amazing progression,” he said.

“You start from ground zero,” added Morgan, who still laughs at the memory of a then 156-kilogram Mailata riding around on the Beach Cruiser bikes players were given to get from one side of the campus to the other.

But Mailata has since outgrown the novelty and even from the first moment he walked into the Academy’s facilities in Florida, Butler quickly noticed the Australian had “some legitimate size and talent”.

Not just that but he was also willing to put in the work to make the most of that size and talent.

“I just remember what a good-hearted guy he was,” Butler said.

“Always willing to learn, always willing to push the guys around him, all the cultural things we talk about in a program, he had it.”

But for all Mailata has achieved off the field, it’s his personality off it that stays with Morgan.

She still remembers his affable personality and the way his booming voice would fill the training room.

She definitely still remembers the nickname he gave her and insisted on yelling across the room, because that’s just Jordan.

“He’s always energy and joking around,” Morgan said.

“My name is Taryn, I’ve never had anyone call me ‘Tar’ but from across the room it is always, ‘Tarrrrrrrrr’. It’s always very excitable with Jordan.”

Now that excitable Australian, the same one that only five years ago didn’t know how to put on a helmet, is about to play in a Super Bowl.

“And he’s literally just probably reaching his stride,” Butler said.

“None of it is a surprise but for me I’m just so proud and excited,” added Morgan.

“It makes your heart full.”


Now Mailata is a starting left tackle and signed a four-year deal worth up to $64 million in 2021, considered the biggest bargain in the league last year by PFF.

But the Bankstown kid has never forgotten who he was or where he came from. And inside the Philadelphia locker room, Mailata’s outsized personality still shines through according to Eagles beat reporter Chris Franklin.

Although Franklin added, laughing, that part of the authenticity that makes Mailata so approachable is the fact he still swears a lot, “much more than his mum wants to know”.

“I think it’s always funny that you can see when he walks around and comes into the room, it’s funny because you know where he’s at,” Franklin told

“We’re cut off from being inside, for a lack of a better word, the players’ clubhouse. You can hear him laughing, he’s always cheery, he’s always going around and then when he comes and sees us, there’s times he’ll go, ‘Christopher, I knew you were around here’.

“He’s a really down-to-earth, genuine guy. This team has a lot of them, but you just see he commands a presence in that locker room.”

Mailata had already defied expectations when he was first drafted by the Eagles as a seventh-round pick in 2018.

But being drafted was one thing. Making the leap from project to player was another — and Mailata didn’t have any college experience to draw from either.

What he did have though was a degree from Jeff Stoutland University.

“Jeff Stoutland is, in my opinion, the best offensive line coach in the league,” Franklin said.

“He’s blunt, he’s honest, he critiques them but he really, really takes the time to make sure that all these guys are ready to go.

“Jordan brought it up beforehand and it’s taken on a life of its own with Stoutland University. The shirts were made and everybody’s talking about that.

“But it’s just the little techniques, the little mannerisms they’re using now in this offence have basically opened up things and made this probably the best offensive line in the league.”

That was made even more clear against one of the best defensive lines in the league last weekend as Stoutland coached the Eagles line to a highly physical showing against San Francisco.

Mailata finished the game with zero sacks or hurries and even pancaked the imposing Nick Bosa on one play.

“It really shows how much work he’s put in, being a guy who had to learn the whole entire position as a whole, learning to be a right tackle and eventually a left tackle from playing rugby,” Franklin said.

“Now he’s going to be protecting Jalen Hurts’ blindside on the biggest stage and in the biggest game of his career. So many people when they are under pressure like that, they sometimes quit or just can’t handle it.

“He just embraced it and now he’s one of the better left tackles in the league.”


NBC Philadelphia’s Rob Kuestner described it as “the best story in the NFL”, worthy of a Hollywood movie and should Mailata’s improbable rise to stardom ever hit the big screens, the Australian knows exactly who would play him.

“That’s an easy one… ‘The Rock’ Johnson,” he laughed, talking to News Corp ahead of Monday’s game.

But don’t let Mailata’s jovial demeanour fool you. There is also another side to the 25-year-old, one that sheds a light on why he sacrificed so much to play in a sport he knew so little about.

“I don’t like being told I can’t do something,” Mailata said earlier this week.

“That’s probably the reason I’m here in America in the first place. I can’t help but prove people wrong.”

He’s done just that and for former Five Dock coach Eid, seeing Mailata chase his dreams was enough to inspire him to do the same and open his own café. Now he’s opening his third.

“He’s given you that drive to realise you don’t have to conform to what everyone says you should be doing,” Eid said.

“Jordan was that big boy who always played rugby league and there was that path for him. No one thought the path was in the NFL.”

But that path is quickly opening up, not just in Australia but across the Pacific, for others including new NFL International Player Pathway talent Talitiga Amosa.

Amosa and Baltimore Ravens tackle Daniel Faalele both trained out of Conquest Athletic Performance in Melbourne, where the gym’s director David Tuinauvai helps prepare athletes for the transition to American football.

Like Mailata, both Faalele and Amosa came from other sporting backgrounds before meeting Tuinauvai, who has built a strong relationship with Chris Naeole, now an Eagles international scout.

“Obviously with their size and athleticism, it’s showing boys that are either too big for rugby or told one thing in terms of their conditioning or agility that [they] can’t do something, now Jordan and Daniel are changing the game,” Tuinauvai told

As for Mailata’s success, Tuinauvai said it is just another reminder of why someone like Amosa is still chasing his dream despite multiple setbacks.

“We know that if he can do it there’s no reason why Tali can’t take this opportunity with both hands as well,” Tuinauvai added.

That is the legacy Mailata is already leaving behind, even with his career in the NFL far from finished — proof that no dream is too big.

And by Monday there could be a new photo of Mailata hanging on the walls at Philadelphia’s NovaCare Complex.

One team will celebrate. Confetti will fall. So will Mailata’s teammates, either in agony or ecstasy. Whatever result, whatever the overwhelming emotion — Mailata will be there to pick them up.

Originally published as ’Unbelievable picture’ sums up Jordan Mailata ahead of Super Bowl

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