Three years after being drafted in the seventh round, former Australian rugby player Jordan Mailata is starting at left tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl.
Mailata, 25, credits center Jason Kelce for helping him become so successful so quickly. He started 16 games for the NFC East champions in 2022.
And Mailata used more than his words to prove his point. He held up his cellphone during an interview on Monday at Super Bowl LVII Opening Night in Phoenix, displaying a photo of Kelce as his background screen.
“That’s Fat Batman,” Mailata said. “That’s how much of an inspiration he is to me. It’s an honor playing with Jason Kelce and the player and the person that he is. You couldn’t ask for a better teammate and leader.”
–There’s no questioning the toughness of Eagles All-Pro right tackle Lane Johnson, who put off surgery to repair a torn core muscle until after the season.
The 10-year Eagles veteran thrives on challenges and is ready for a big one on the other side of the line Sunday when he opposes Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones.
“I think Chris Jones is the premier guy in the league,” Johnson said. “His ability to rush the passer and play the run at his size, and what he can do with his size — 6-6 and 310, 315 — he just dominated really every game he’s been a part of.”
Jones matched his career high with 15.5 sacks during the regular season and recorded two against the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game.
“There’s times he will line up on the right tackle, left tackle,” Johnson said. “I feel like what they do is they just try to go down the line and see what mismatches they have.”
–The Philadelphia defense allowed a combined 14 points and 391 total yards in playoff wins against the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
“Really we just hold each other accountable and complement each other,” Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. We complement each other in everything that we’re doing. For me, when you’re doing stuff like that, it’s just so special.”
Philadelphia led the NFL with 70 sacks during the regular season and became the first team in NFL history with four players collecting double-digit sacks: Haason Reddick with 16 and Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham with 11 each.
Cox, 32, who had seven sacks in his 11th season with the Eagles, said it will be business as usual Sunday against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“We’ve just got to continue doing what we’re doing,” Cox said. “I don’t think anybody in our room is going to try to do anything special. We’ve just got to stick to what we’ve been doing all year and when we get an opportunity to get him on the ground, we’ve gotta get him on the ground.”