Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Eagles Jordan Mailata and Joe Ostman forged a friendship from on-field battles through the years

They spent most of their time lined up across from each other for several years and often worked together after practice. As a result, a friendship was formed.

Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (68),  linebacker Eric Wilson (50) and linebacker Joe Ostman talked on the field after training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday.
Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (68), linebacker Eric Wilson (50) and linebacker Joe Ostman talked on the field after training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

When Joe Ostman needs a food recommendation, he knows to seek out Jordan Mailata, the biggest player on the Eagles roster, for advice.

The 6-foot-8, 365-pound left tackle may be from Australia, but Ostman suggests his knowledge on the local dining scene rivals those who have spent many more years in the city.

“If I could say one guy on the team that knows the best spots around town to eat, I would say Jordan,” Ostman said. “It’s crazy because he wasn’t even from the United States prior to here but he knows all the good spots to eat.”

Mailata dispelled the notion that he’s a “foodie,” instead deflecting the praise to his girlfriend, Niki. He said his favorite spots include Vernick, Vetri Cucina, and Poi Dog before it permanently closed.

“I just love food and just had to figure out good spots in Philly,” he said. “Every time, like I said, I’m a very social guy, so I like to go check out the scenery here and there and get a good grip on the town.”

Ostman and Mailata both entered the league in 2018, Mailata as an Australian rugby player who’d never played in a football game at any level, and Ostman as an undrafted defensive end out of Central Michigan. They spent the majority of their time lined up across from one another for several years, and would often stay after practice together to get extra reps. As a result of going against one another so often, they forged a friendship.

“Out of staying out there after practice together, it kind of just carried off the field,” Mailata said. “A mutual respect, a friendship began and we started hanging out. We would go and get a drink here and there or go out and have a bite here and there. I think it all started from just the rivalry on the field and wanting to get better and bettering each other from every time we stayed back and every rep against each other.”

Mailata got his first starting experience last season and played well. Ostman played sparingly last season, but has long been lauded as one of the most helpful scout team players and hardest workers on the team the last few years.

» READ MORE: From the Archives: How a baker’s son helped the Eagles’ playoff run by impersonating the NFL’s elite pass rushers

Because of Ostman’s reputation as a hustle guy, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and former head coach Doug Pederson made a point of lining him up over Mailata often, especially during walkthroughs. It served a dual purpose: Helping Mailata get quality, intense reps to hasten his development, while also keeping Ostman from annoying veteran players during the slower parts of practice.

“Some of the vets were probably like, ‘Calm down, Joe. This is just walkthrough.’ But for me, I needed every single rep,” Mailata said. “Every time, I wanted Joe. I told Stout, ‘Put Joe over on my side, I’ll take him in walkthrough, I’ll take him in practice, just [freaking] do it,’ and he did that. When we didn’t have pads on and helmets, they put Joe on my side because they knew he was going to work me at every angle and get me better.”

For a time, Mailata’s insistence on lining up against Ostman might have indicated he was a glutton for punishment. The 6-foot-3, 259-pound pass rusher would often beat his contemporary, particularly with an inside spin move.

“Oh dude, it was like, inevitable,” Mailata said. “You knew that it was coming but for some reason, I just didn’t know how to stop it. I could tell it was coming, but it just happened so fast.”

Ostman had his own adjustment period when the two started matching up frequently, but for different reasons.

“He is the biggest human I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s just a little different going against him. He’s got a different type of strength, different type of size. You just gotta kind of learn, if he’s coming at you hard, be ready to try to make him miss, because you do not want to get on those train tracks.”

Both have taken strides since the early days going at one another. Mailata started 10 games last season — his first game action outside of preseason at any level — and flashed potential to become a starting left tackle.

Mailata entered training camp this year in a competition with Andre Dillard for the starting left tackle job and had gained a clear upper hand in on-field performance, dominating at times both during one-on-one pass rush drills and team portions of practice. It’s worth noting Dillard, the team’s first-round pick in 2019, left practice Tuesday with a sprained knee and is considered week-to-week.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni praised Mailata for coming into camp well-conditioned, something he challenged the team to do at the end of OTAs.

“I think Jordan came back in phenomenal shape,” the first-year coach said. “He had a target weight that he was trying to come back at and he came back at that weight. He came back lighter, he came back more fit and it’s showing out there. And so he’s just a big man that can move like a little man, right. ... I’ve only known him for a short time but he said to me, and the strength staff have said, he is in the best shape of his life.”

Ostman switched roles under new defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, going from a designated pass-rusher to more of a SAM linebacker in a 3-4 front. As a result, he spends much more time lined up against tight ends rather than battling with Mailata every day, but he’s still familiar with the particular strides his friend has made as a pass protector.

“He doesn’t get head-heavy nearly as much,” Ostman said. ”He uses his size and athleticism as an advantage a lot more. It’s a lot harder to beat him with things that I used to be able to get him with now because he’s learned over the years. He came in as a good player and he’s a great player now and he’s still getting better.”

Mailata and Ostman said they reflected on how far they’ve come since their rookie season the other day.

“It’s been great kind of to see both of our progressions over the years,” Ostman said. “Jordan’s specifically, he had never played football when he got here. He was this great athlete, this great guy that’s never played football. You don’t really see that at this level much. Each year, he’s progressed in a tremendous way, not just against me, but against everyone. I feel like he’s learned at a tremendous pace each year.”

The two have plenty of memories, but some things have grown fuzzy over time. Ostman recalls thinking Mailata would have made a better country singer than a football player after hearing him sing during a team meeting in which rookies were required to perform for their teammates. He just can’t place the song he sang, partly because he’s heard so many since then.

“We were like, ‘This guy’s in the NFL? He should be in Nashville singing country songs,’ ” Ostman said. “I don’t [remember the song,] but I’ve heard him sing lots of songs. In the sauna, in the locker room, I’ve heard him sing a lot of songs now and they all sound better than the original version.”