New NFL Academy on Gold Coast to unearth next Mailata

Joel Gould |

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Mailata will be an ambassador for the NFL Academy in Australia.
Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Mailata will be an ambassador for the NFL Academy in Australia.

The establishment of a new NFL Academy on the Gold Coast is set to make the unearthing of the next Jordan Mailata a more achievable and seamless process.

The academy, based at AB Patterson College, will be the first in Australia and only the second globally run under the auspices of the NFL.

Student athletes from across the Asia-Pacific region between the ages of 12 and 18 will be eligible from September for a place in the elite development program.

Construction of a high-performance centre, based on the college grounds, will start next year and be opened in 2026.

NFL Academy on the Gold Coast.
An artist’s impression of a gymnasium at the NFL Academy on the Gold Coast. (Supplied/AAP PHOTOS)

Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Mailata will be an ambassador for the NFL Academy in Australia. 

The 27-year-old Mailata did not play American football growing up. After playing under-20s rugby league for South Sydney, he had an opportunity to try out for the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, and while training at the IMG Academy he was scouted by the Eagles.

His story is not a usual one. The NFL Academy in the United Kingdom has been the conduit for more than 40 participants to secure college football scholarships in the US, with 19 of those playing in Division 1 college programs.

Charlotte Offord, general manager NFL Australia and New Zealand, said the Gold Coast-based academy would have the same focus.

“The NFL Academy is essentially an elite high school football program set up and run by the NFL,” Offord told AAP.

“We have one in the UK that has been running since 2019.

“The vision for the program is to bring kids in at the age of 12 to 18 and ensure they have a full education in partnership with a private school, AB Patterson College on the Gold Coast. 

“We are partnering with them to bring together education and intense American football training, with the aim of these kids going on to secure Division 1, 2 or 3 scholarships in the US in colleges.

artist's impression of a gym at the new NFL Academy
The NFL Academy on the Gold Coast will combine education with top-class American football training. (Supplied/AAP PHOTOS)

“The college system feeds the NFL draft over time. If we have athletes learning the game earlier and training at an earlier age, the chance of them converting into college and having successful college careers and going on to the NFL is obviously heightened.”

Australia already has the Prokick Academy, a private organisation that has had an outstanding success rate in facilitating conversion into the NFL for punters, namely Australians with an AFL background.

On the other hand, the NFL Academy, boasting the world’s leading development coaches, is for all positions and for a younger high school age cohort.

NFL Academy talent recruitment camps – two in Australia and one in New Zealand – are set to be held between June and August, with successful participants joining the inaugural academy class.

“What this academy does is make the sport more accessible,” Offord said.

“It is making the process easier and more accessible for young athletes across Asia-Pacific.” 

Mailata explained why the new NFL Academy had his full backing.

“Football has changed my life, and opening an NFL Academy in Australia will no doubt help many more young people change theirs,” he said.

“The Asia-Pacific region is rich in sporting talent, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of football players out there craft their own pathway to playing in the NFL in years to come.”

Independent analysis shows the NFL has 6.6 million fans in Australia. In 2023 there was a 26 per cent increase in viewership in the NFL. That culminated in the Super Bowl reaching an audience of 2.8 million, the highest to date.