Mailata says Kelce is still pushing standard, even in Year 13 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
In the auditorium at the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex, there are four gigantic photos of Eagles greats covering the walls: Chuck Bednarik, Reggie White, Steve Van Buren and Tommy McDonald.
“One day his picture is going to be up here on the walls,” Mailata said.
Hard to argue.
Kelce, 35, is an all-time Eagles great. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, Super Bowl champion and an absolute Philadelphia legend who should one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The amazing thing is that Kelce isn’t slowing down in Year 13.
“The goal, I think, for young guys should be trying to achieve that standard,” Mailata said. “And when you get to that standard, keep chasing Kelce. I feel like I haven’t gotten there yet because Kelce is forever pushing the standard boundary. Every year he comes back, he’s pushing that more and more. He wants to get more out of drills. He wants us to get better at watching film. He wants us to be more football and fundamentally sound.”
It’s hard to believe that this is already Year 6 for Mailata, who was a seventh round pick back in 2018. He’s been here for a while now and as the starting left tackle, it’s part of his job to set the standard for younger players coming in.
You’ll remember that when Mailata came to the Eagles as a former rugby player he didn’t know much about American football. So it was pretty easy to find things to improve. But even as he’s now one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL, he said it’s still not hard to find areas to improve. One of the reasons for that is offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland won’t let him slide.
But the prevailing thought from Mailata was that the standard in the Eagles’ offensive line room won’t let him rest either. He listed the players who were in the O-line room when he arrived and credited them: Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Isaac Seumalo, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Chance Warmack, Stefen Wisniewski and, of course, Kelce.
“Those guys set the standard and it’s pretty easy when you’re chasing greatness and that’s kind of the mindset that I go in with every day, is just chasing greatness,” Mailata said. “When you get to play alongside with Lane and Kelce, you’re forever chasing greatness.”
Mailata and his close friend Landon Dickerson want to be the standard-bearers for the next generation of Eagles offensive linemen. They want to be examples for younger players like Cam Jurgens and Tyler Steen. Mailata one day wants those guys to talk about him the same way he now talks about the veterans who were in Philly when he arrived.
Kelce is at the top of that list for him. And years later, Mailata is still chasing that standard.
In recent seasons, Kelce has openly flirted with retirement but keeps coming back because he still wants to play. One of the reasons he’s really wrestled with the retirement question is that Kelce doesn’t want to go through the motions. If he’s playing, he’s all-in.
And that’s what Mailata has seen from the 13-year pro even as the Eagles just go through their voluntary springs workouts.
“He’s just a legend, man,” Mailata said. “I have so much respect for Kelce. He’s the epitome of a football player and a true leader and captain.”
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