The Eagles selected former Australian rugby player Jordan Mailata in the seventh round of the NFL draft, giving a rare — but not unprecedented — opportunity to a player who has never played American football.
It’s not unprecedented because Jarryd Hayne briefly made the 49ers as a running back and return man despite having only played Australian rugby, not American football, before giving the NFL a shot. Hayne only lasted eight games and says he thinks Mailata needs to understand how steep the learning curve is.
“You can go into the NFL and understand a little bit of what you’re going to learn, but until you sit down in a room and see the playbook, the defensive schemes, it just blows your mind,” Hayne told NRL.com. ”I went in there with some idea, like ‘oh yeah, I kind of get it’ but not only do you have to learn all the schemes, but you also change them every week. And it’s not one of those things where you get time to learn and change them; it’s like ‘BOOM we’re doing this now’ and you’re expected to know it.”
Hayne said a big difference that he struggled with was learning to see the field while wearing a helmet. Hayne infamously muffed the first punt he was sent back to return and struggled with seeing with a face mask in front of his eyes.
“He needs to get used to the helmet obviously because offensive linemen have to do a lot of non-verbal communication where you can’t speak to the guy next to you, you’ve got to be able to signal him, you’ve got to be on the same page. For example, the quarterback might change the blocking scheme or the defence might rotate in an instance, just little things like that,” Hayne said. ”The helmet does hinder your vision but you’ve got to really get used to it in order to see how everyone is moving, and the rotations.”
Hayne is rooting for Mailata, and said that from a pure size, strength and athleticism standpoint Mailata has the ability to do it. But Hayne says Mailata is in for a tough task.