Rugby players aren’t strangers when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Philadelphia signed Canadian rugby player Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract in 2017 and converted him to a tight end.
Nearly a year later, the defending Super Bowl champions selected Australian rugby player Jordan Mailata from Sydney with the 233rd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft.
"I’ll never forget this day for the rest of my life,” Mailata said. "There were a lot of emotions today. I didn’t how I was feeling especially when it came down to the last 30 picks, but it’s been a great experience as a whole.”
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The Eagles moved up for their final pick of the draft to get Mailata, who’s listed as a 6-foot-8, 346-pound offensive tackle. Philadelphia sent its 250th pick and seventh-round pick in 2019 to New England.
“For them to do that, it meant a lot to me,” Mailata said. “It means they really care about me and they were interested.”
One of the biggest things Mailata needs to learn about coming over the states is the fierce rivalry between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
“I had no idea. They were booing and I was wondering why. It wasn’t like I did anything yet,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got on stage that I realized it must have been some kind of rival.
“It’s going to be a massive learning curve and I plan on being a sponge and soaking it all up, and just being the best person and player I can."
Mailata flew into Dallas on Saturday. He visited the Eagles earlier this month and has been training at IMG Academy in Florida. He ran a 5.12-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, which would have ranked him eighth among tackles at the NFL scouting combine.
"Definitely wasn’t something I took lightly," Mailata said about his transition over to the NFL. "It took me about two months to make my mind up.
"The fans here are very passionate and very outspoken here, and hopefully I can earn their respect."