PHILADELPHIA – The launching point to Jordan Mailata’s professional career began in Santa Clara, on the left coast, 3,000 or so miles away from Philadelphia.
It came against the San Francisco 49ers in Levi’s Stadium. It was there where Mailata made the first start of his NFL career.
Ten more followed in 2020, and each one seemed to get better than the last.
Now, here he is one year later, ready to play the 49ers again, this time inside Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles will celebrate their home opener at 1-0 against the 1-0 Niners (1 p.m./FOX).
Mailata is certainly a lot richer since that last game, having signed a four-year contract extension that guarantees him $40.85 million and can be worth up to $80M, just 24 hours before the season-opener in Atlanta.
The first time around against the Niners, though, was rough.
“I was watching the (that) film this week,” said Mailata on Friday. “I just remember, ‘Man, I look so bad.’ For me, it was nice to realize how much I learned from the first time I started till now. I’m able to identify, looking at my stance, how I started … It’s kind of crazy to think that this happened last year, and now we’re playing them again.”
If that game taught Mailata anything, it was that, yeah, he could play in the pros, despite arriving off the rugby fields of Australia just two years earlier having never played a down of football in his life.
“I did know I could play in the league from that game,” he said. “The biggest thing was consistency and to show up every week. That’s when I really knew that I could play in the league when I was stacking plays and days.”
Nick Bosa didn’t play in last year’s game after an early season knee injury sidelined him.
The matchup between Mailata and Bosa is one of the key battles that will take place on the line of scrimmage. Lane Johnson’s matchup against Dee Ford on the other side is of equal importance.
On Friday, Mailata and his offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland, recalled the first time they met.
Stoutland got a call from Howie Roseman just as he was about to begin a golf vacation with some high school buddies. He was informed that he had to go check out this Australian football wanna-be.
"I went and worked him out and I was like, wow!” said Stoutland. “I couldn’t believe it. Just a big person like that could move and change direction and I was so happy that we did that. I felt like this guy, the sky’s the limit. I really did. That was my report when I came back. I just felt like the guy could be special.”
The two met in a car port outside IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“Very intense day for me,” said Mailata. “I remember seeing him walking…I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I can feel the intensity already,’ and I was right. Just from the get-go, when he said hello, and we walked straight into the classroom, and he was like straight to the business of trying to teach me two and three Jet Protection. Very intense.”
Stoutland diagrammed some plays on a grease board. He told Mailata he would be back at the same time the next day and erased the grease board. Stoutland then said he wanted Mailata to teach back to him what he had just taught.
Mailata snuck back into the room after Stoutland left to squint at the grease board, looking for any faint traces of what may have been left behind from the lesson.
“When he said that, I immediately said, ‘How can I cheat this process?’” admitted Mailata. “I remembered everything on the board and I’m going to try my best to rewrite. When he was scrubbing it off, I notice when he gets intense, he pushes the pen.
“So, he rubbed it out but he still left all the circles, every rule that he wrote. So as soon as I said ‘bye’ to him, I just went back, just drew everything I could see on the board. I think I still have the photo on my phone, to be honest.”
Mailata said he aced the recall test.
Stoutland wasn’t so sure.
“I would say that he needed to come here and let me coach him,” said the OL coach.
Stoutland did know that he and Mailata would be a good fit.
“I would say the match between Jordan and I is probably really perfect because I coached in college for 30 years before coming to the National Football League and had an opportunity to develop a lot of young players,” Stoutland said.
“When you do that from the ground up, you understand what it takes to develop the player, and this was a guy that needed that. He doesn’t know anything about the game of football, and we had to go back to those times and develop him from that standpoint, and he’s still developing and doing a wonderful job of it.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.