Australian-born Jordan Mailata had never played a single down of American football when his name was called in the seventh round of this year's NFL draft.

Yet, with the 233rd pick, the former South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby league prodigy was drafted by the champion Philadelphia Eagles.

His lack of experience in the sport was overlooked in favour of his physical abilities. As raw as he was, the 21-year-old offensive tackle was dripping with potential. Now, the NFL is bringing scouts Down Under looking to discover more talent.

The organisation is hosting testing days for budding young players in Auckland, Wellington, Fiji, Samoa, Sydney and Brisbane in the coming weeks. The 75 best performing athletes will be invited to a combine on the Gold Coast in October, when they will be viewed by NFL officials.


NFL football programming manager Matt Reamer told the Herald on Sunday the testing days were an opportunity for young athletes in codes such as rugby and league to see "a different route in sports than they're used to".

"With this, it's just giving them an opportunity, and even just putting it as a thought. A lot of athletes here don't realise the NFL may be an option," Reamer said.

"It's an opportunity to get out and see some athletes and obviously there's an interest with Jordan [Mailata] this year in the draft, and Jarryd Hayne previously.

"There seems to be more of an interest in American football here, so it's seeing how we can look at some of these athletes and see how their skillset translates to our game."

Reamer said this was the first time the league had held a combine in this part of the world during his six years working for the NFL.

He said there might be several athletes in Oceania who could follow a similar path to Mailata just waiting to be discovered.

"What we're trying to do is give these guys a chance. When you've got an athlete like Jordan who's so talented, it's just an amazing opportunity and a great story."

There has been little in the way of Kiwi involvement in the NFL. Most recently, fullback Paul Lasike was used sparingly in his time with the Chicago Bears in 2016 before pursuing a career in rugby.


New Zealand-born linebacker Andrew Motu'apuaka is working to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the upcoming season.

New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison spent three years in Christchurch as a child. His New Zealand-born father, Riki, was a three-time Super Bowl winner with the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s.

Former Pukekohe High student David Dixon played 152 NFL games during an 11-year career with the Minnesota Vikings during 1994-2004.

New Zealand testing days:


Date: Wednesday August 29

Time: 9am Registration / Testing beings at 10am

Venue: Unitec Institute of Technology (Sports Fields) - 139 Carrington Road, Mt Albert.

Date: Sunday September 1
Time: 10am registration / 11am testing begins
Venue: Wellington College - 15 Dufferin Street, Basin Reserve.