The incredible, inspirational (and very happy) tale of Jordan Mailata
By Dave Spadaro

For Eagle Jordan Mailata, his journey from the rugby fields of Australia to Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field has been a leap of faith – one that has paid off wonderfully. And yet despite his phenomenal success, Mailata keeps it real every day with his music and mindset. His goals for the future? Well, he’ll tell you, let’s just focus on being happy today.

This is a normal day in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room at the NovaCare Complex, a home-away-from-home for 70 or so young professional football players from every kind of background, a melting pot of opinions and culture. There is a lively din, a combination of trash talking among the defensive backs, a boom box of music from the defensive linemen, quiet concentration from the quarterbacks and specialists situated at the front of the room.

In the far right corner, in the very back of the room is where the offensive linemen are situated, and there is a voice, beautiful and filled with emotion. This is something that happens many times in a week: offensive tackle Jordan Mailata pulling out his guitar or his banjo, both of which are on stands next to his college dorm-decorated locker (t-shirts and sweatpants and shoes everywhere). His size-18 feet are stretched out in front of him and he is in his own kind of zone. It is impossible not to notice the sweetness of his voice, uncommon for someone of his dominating size.

“It’s a part of whom I am, man,” Mailata says as he relaxes following a mid-season practice for an Eagles team heading once again to the NFL postseason and, we all hope, a step further than last season’s Super Bowl LVII appearance. “I will never forget where I came from. The guitar for me is a reminder of the childhood that I had, it’s a reminder of my people, the Samoan people. It is a reminder of everything that I was before I came here.”

Who he was before he came here…well, that has to be where the story starts, right? Mailata was an oversized Australian rugby player only six years ago making about $100 a game, waking up at 5 am and working a demolition construction job to pay the bills when he decided that running over – literally, over and through – all these other players while playing second string for the South Sydney Rabbitohs just kind of sucked. 

In 2017, he decided to ditch it all to pursue a fantastical dream: He would come to America and play in the National Football League.

“I was excited to make the journey. I knew that this was going to be all or nothing,” he says. “That was the attitude that I had when I first came here. I came over here by myself (he starts singing “All by myselfffffff …”) and I just knew I had to be dedicated to trying to make my dream come true. There were a lot of emotions.  I had to apply myself and stay focused and be humbled. I knew I had the tools. I just had to learn how to use them, so I was like a big ball of clay, and I was hoping I would end up in the right hands.

“I felt like I could match the physicality and learn the technique and, fortunately, I have been guided by Jeff Stoutland, who I owe everything to in terms of the success that I’ve had.”

Stoutland is the Eagles’ offensive line coach who became infatuated with Mailata, who landed from Australia at the IMG Academy in Florida. Once Stoutland had a chance to see Mailata up close, he marveled at his incredible size and his unbelievable athleticism and he had…to…have…him.

“A freak athlete,” Stoutland says. “A big giant with the footwork you dream about. I mean, he had no idea what football was about. Not one rule. Not one bit of technique. We built him from the ground up.”

And so here we are, six seasons later and Mailata is being paid $16 million per year on a $64 million contract that runs through 2025. He’s rich, he’s famous – Mailata appeared on FOX’s “The Masked Singer” prior to the 2022 season as “Thingamabob” and is the lead vocalist (because he is, you know, a real singer) on the Eagles’ two Christmas albums with teammates Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and others – and he is the most lovable, huggable giant of a teddy bear you will ever find.

“Everybody loves the guy. Why wouldn’t you?” says Eagles Pro Bowl left guard Landon Dickerson, Mailata’s best friend. “He’s nice to everybody and he relates to people. He chased his dream and he got there. He made one of the most impossible leaps of faith to become a professional football player and now he’s one of the best in the world. He is a happy, happy man who treats people right. Loyal, honest, the best friend you could have. I love him and I would do anything for him, and I know he feels the same about me.”

From a 20-year-old kid to a newlywed with a monster contract and acclaim as one of the best in the world at what he does, Mailata is living his dream. He deserves every bit of the praise and the riches he is receiving.

Isn’t Mailata doing what every dreamer aspires to accomplish?

“I think that’s the tough spot,” Mailata says. “Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, he has accomplished all of his dreams, all of his goals,’ but to be honest, I don’t have any. I live every day, day to day. That is my mindset. The next goal is the next game. If I’m looking ahead, it’s only because I’m planning something with my wife.” [Mailata married Niki Ikahihifo in Hawaii this past summer.]

“The goal for me is to accomplish whatever is in front of me. I’ve learned not to look too far down the road, man. I think that is what has helped me reach this position.”

And with that, Mailata reaches for his guitar. He is proficient also, he says, in piano, bass and ukulele. If anyone is looking for a backup guitarist, Mailata is your man.

“Backup, not lead,” says Mailata, who wants to learn how to play the saxophone in the offseason. “Not interested in leading. Just whaling in the background.”

At 6-8, 365 pounds – in the background?

“That’s just who I am. I’m not famous. Rich maybe,” he laughs, “but not famous. I’ve taken an incredible journey to get here, but I’m not finished. I’m a young man. I have a long life in front of me, but right now, my mindset is to have a great day of work, love my wife, love my friends and win a game this week. That’s how I approach life. And I’ve got my guitar, my banjo, my music. That’s what makes me happy.”  



Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has covered every Eagles game since 1987 and is seen and heard throughout the year on television, radio and Eagles coverage everywhere. You can hear his Eagles Live Podcast on iTunes.



January 2024
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