With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, NFL scouts' next assignment will be attending pro days at colleges across the nation. One that will draw the interest of many of those scouts will take place in Tampa on Saturday, March 24, when Australian-born Jordan Mailata -- a recent rugby convert who moved from Sydney to the U.S. in January -- gets his chance to strut his stuff.
Mailata, a 20-year-old of Samoan origin who played professional rugby for the South Sydney Rabbitohs, is working on making the conversion to offensive tackle in the NFL. At 6-foot-8 and 345 pounds, he has the size to make that conversion, and his recently timed 5.00-second 40-yard dash would have ranked among the top five at his position at the NFL Combine, a hair better than potential first-round OT Connor Williams did it at 50 pounds lighter.
Mailata is working to hone his game at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., under the watchful eye of Aden Durde, the coach responsible for Moritz Boehringer's meteoric draft rise in 2016.
Durde's attention was drawn to Mailata's skills after watching a YouTube video (see video above) sent to him by Mailata's agent, Chris Orr, that showed his incredible combination of size and athleticism.
After a team of coaches worked Mailata out in Los Angeles in December, they brought him to IMG with the goal of preparing the draft-eligible player to showcase his skills at a pro day three months later.
It has not all been plain sailing for the recent convert to football.
"I went there not really understanding the level of athleticism and skill the guys up front at the line of scrimmage had," Mailata said after spending a few weeks learning an entirely new sport. "But now having been put through the many drills and testing, it certainly opened my eyes to how good the NFL athlete is. I am looking forward to the challenge and feel confident I can succeed, but I now have a lot of hard work in front of me before I can start thinking of wearing an NFL jersey. This is just the start of my NFL journey."
Despite the early setbacks, Durde has been impressed with his student's application to learning the sport and progress toward his goal.
"Jordan has worked really hard to pick up a sport that he knew nothing about when he arrived in Florida at the start of the year," Durde said. "His physical talents are overwhelming and stand him in good stead for success in whatever sport he wants to participate in. But so much of football is technique, and he has been really focused on getting that part of his game right."
While Mailata is far from a finished product, coaches and scouts who subscribe to Bill Parcells' "Planet Theory" -- that there are only a finite number of men on Earth that have the size and athleticism to play pro football -- could be intrigued enough to spend a late-round draft pick on this freakishly talented international athlete.