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September 08, 2023

Eagles quick hits: Jordan Mailata on growing up watching Tony Romo, Zach Cunningham's anime fandom and more

Jordan Mailata discusses the first football players he remembers watching, Zach Cunningham gives a beginner's lesson in anime and more Eagles talk.

Ahead of the Eagles' season-opening matchup with the Patriots on Sunday in Foxboro, here are a few choice cuts from the Birds' practices this week. 

Australia's Team? 🇦🇺

Tom Brady is perhaps the most famous NFL player of all time. New England will honor Brady, now retired (for good?), at halftime of Week 1 after the quarterback won six Super Bowls with the franchise. 

Just how famous is Brady?

Jordan Mailata, whose journey from football novice in Australia to NFL left tackle is well known, was asked who's the first American football player he ever remembered seeing. 

"Probably would be Tom Brady. If not Tom Brady, then Tony Romo," Mailata said to PhillyVoice on Wednesday.

Peyton Manning? Nope. Randy Moss? No. It's Romo, who was ultimately more famous for his playoff shortcomings and romantic escapades than his football success. 

"They were advertised as America's Team. I wanted to say Tony Romo first, but probably Tom Brady. I'm just being honest. I didn't know what the f**k I was watching. I had no idea who the f**k the Cowboys were. I didn't know I was supposed to hate them," Mailata said. 

After the Eagles drafted Mailata five years ago, his transformation into a Philadelphian is finally complete. He knows he's supposed to hate the Cowboys. 

Romo, naturally, will be the TV analyst on the call for CBS during the Eagles-Patriots game. 

Straw Hat Pirates 🏴‍☠️

It's been a whirlwind of a few weeks for Zach Cunningham. The Eagles signed him off the street in early August, he's now in a position to be a starting linebacker on Sunday and the live-action "One Piece" series adaptation debuted on Netflix.

Cunningham is the Eagles' resident anime fan. During some practices, as many players do, Cunningham tucks his jersey under his shoulder pads. That leaves Cunningham's shirt hanging out, featuring anime and manga art. A tie-dye anime t-shirt has hung amongst his clothes in his locker. 

For an anime novice, what would be Cunningham's suggestion for someone who wanted to check out some of these Japanese cartoon series?

"I wouldn't recommend the longer animes like [the original animated] 'One Piece' or 'Naruto,'" Cunningham said to PhillyVoice on Thursday. There were multiple "Naruto" series that ran from 2002 to 2017. That's a hefty undertaking. 

Cunningham recommends the new pirate-themed "One Piece" Netflix show, which just dropped on the streaming service and has only eight episodes. 

"That might be one to introduce yourself to it."

As for others?

"Something like 'Demon Slayer,'" Cunningham continued. "I think that one would be good. Maybe 'Attack on Titan.' Something like that. Something that's a little shorter, so you're not overwhelmed."

Tips for fall recreation time: watch a bunch of football and binge through "Attack on Titan." 

Specialists Unite 🤝

An old press conference clip of Bill Belichick resurfaced and went viral this week. The Patriots' coach was asked if having a player solely dedicated to long snapping was a waste of a roster spot and whether it would be easy to just cross-train an ordinary positional player.

Well, Belichick certainly didn't think so, delivering a 10-minute history of the long snapper position and its importance:

Does Eagles special teams captain Jake Elliott agree with the need for a player who's lone dedication is long snapping?

Elliott laughs when asked. "Yes," he put it plainly.

"I know it's a specialized position, but it's the same thing as any other position out here," Elliott said to PhillyVoice on Thursday. "If you're going to switch a guy from left tackle to right tackle, if you have a wide receiver coming in to play quarterback, it's going to be the same thing. You specialize in these things your whole life.

"If you throw anybody else out there, you're risking a huge change in momentum, a huge change in the game. You see punts blocked all the time. When that happens, some times that team wins that game. If you don't have someone reliable to throw back there and block, it's a totally different skill set than anybody else has. Crucially important."

Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato has been here nearly as long as Elliott. Lovato has been the Eagles' full-time long snapper since 2017 and Elliott joined the Birds during that Super Bowl season. Lovato was a 2019 Pro Bowl selection and Elliott made the team in 2021, too.

"We've been working together for a long time, so I'm comfortable with him," Elliott said about his on-field connection with Lovato. "I understand his rhythm. I trust him. That's a big part of it."

If you didn't know the name of the Eagles' long snapper off hand, hey, that means Lovato has done a great job over the years. The more anonymous a long snapper is, the more consistent his performance is. 

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