Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata, at 6-foot-8, 365 pounds, makes his living on the football field violently knocking over defensive linemen.
But off the field, Mailata makes sweet music belting out Christmas classics, much to the surprise of one Delaware music instructor.
Marji Eldreth, the vocal and steel drums instructor at Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, listened to a few songs that Mailata and fellow Eagles offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson released in their upcoming Christmas album, “A Philly Special Chirstmas.”
(Yes, the album name is a reference to the most famous Eagles’ play from the Super Bowl five years ago, “the Philly Special.”)
“He’s got this falsetto that is amazing,” Eldreth said. “I am speechless just thinking about it. I’m floored, actually. I can’t believe that he’s not a professional singer. He definitely has a career in singing after he leaves the football industry.”
In addition to the three Eagles’ offensive linemen, several area musicians were assembled to record the album, including Charlie Hall, drummer for the band War on Drugs. The full album will be released Friday, and proceeds will benefit the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center in Philadelphia. As of last week, more than $100,000 has already been raised.
Eldreth heard Mailata sing in two of the songs previously released − “White Christmas” and “Merry Christmas Baby.”
“He has such an amazing control over the navigating between his chest voice and head voice and his falsetto in all of these songs,” Eldreth said. “This is really hard to do for a lot of singers.
“I listened to him sing ‘Merry Christmas Baby,” and he’s just got this R&B smooth but raspy tongue quality, which is beautiful. And when he sings, it sounds effortless. He hits a high-C, full voice, which is amazing.”
Kelce, the Eagles’ longtime center, was the ringleader for the Christmas album. Mailata was an easy recruit. After all, the Eagles, like most teams, have the rookies sing in front of the entire team as a rite of passage during training camp. Needless to say, Mailata, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018, wowed his teammates.
Since then, Mailata has appeared on “The Masked Singer,” as well as at other functions in the Philadelphia area. He even sang at the Eagles’ Christmas party last week.
“For me, I’ve always known that I can sing,” Mailata told Delaware Online/The News Journal recently. Then he added with a laugh: “So when people come up to me and say they’re shocked, I just feel like saying: ‘You should hear me when I’m drunk; I’m even better.’
“But I don’t get cheeky about my responses. I just say, ‘Thank you.’ I used to sing all the time. I was a singer and musician before I played any sport. I just grew up in church. My family is very musically gifted. I was in the choir, school and church. All my siblings can sing, too.”
Mailata grew up in Australia as the fourth of five children. Could “The Mailata 5” rival “The Jackson 5?”
SWEET LOVE:How Jalen Hurts sent his message to Eagles’ teammates after 2 first-half INTs vs. Bears
FREEZE OUT:Jalen Hurts, Eagles warm up late’to ice Bears after slow start; Dallas Goedert kept on IR
Maybe not, but Eldreth has heard enough from Mailata to know that he can certainly carry his weight, all 365 pounds, in the sound studio.
“He has a natural talent. He just has that ‘it’ factor,” she said. “He sang different styles on that album. The “Merry Christmas Baby” is very R&B. And the “White Christmas” is just a different feel, a different vibe, especially when he’s doing the falsetto stuff.
“It brings me back to the 1950s doo-wop stuff. … It seems like he does everything really well in the contemporary music genre.”
Mailata’s singing gives a professional quality to the album, in addition to the contributions from Hall and the other musicians. The seven-song LP from Vera Y Records features musicians from The Hooters, Dr. Dog and 98-year-old saxophone player Marshall Allen of Sun Ra Arkestra.
In addition, Eagles radio announcer Merrill Reese narrates “The Night Before Christmas.” That, too, is as glorious as it appears.
So yes, the Eagles’ album makes a mockery of past teams putting out songs, most notably the Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl Shuffle” in 1985.
“Oh, football players making a record, it’s like ‘Super Bowl Shuffle,’” Hall told the Associated Press with a laugh. “But no, this was born out of sincerity and a deep love and appreciation of music.”
The songs on the album include Christmas hits “White Christmas,” “ Blue Christmas,” and “Silent Night.”
But really, Mailata steals the show.
“Jordan could straight up quit football and be a singer if he wanted to,” Hall told the AP. “But they’re all great. Their voices are like a reflection of their personalities. Lane (Johnson) has this incredibly soulful voice. If they were to get out of this line of business, Jordan would have no trouble finding a gig singing.”
Added Kelce: “What Jordan did you could call singing, and what Lane did you could call singing. I don’t know if you could call what I did singing. I’m pretty much just a yeller in certain tones.”
Eldreth agreed with Kelce’s analysis, but loved it nonetheless.
“I love the fact that they were using music because as a musician, we need people to be advocates and love music as much as we do because we need audiences,” she said. “(Kelce) had joy in his voice, and he obviously loved doing it as a way of expressing himself.”
The vinyl album has exceeded expections. The Friday releases have sold out in a matter of minutes. This has surprised Mailata, who said his “inboxes have been blowing up” from frustrated fans trying to get the album. Some albums are going for $4,000 on eBay.
The individual songs can be streamed on Spotify.
“It even went to a point where somebody said, ‘Don’t be like Taylor Swift,’” Mailata said with a laugh. “I don’t even compare this to Taylor Swift (situation). But I totally understand their frustrations. It’s a really hard album to get.”
But there was one other thing about Mailata’s singing that impressed Eldreth − his teamwork.
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link in a choir,” Eldreth said. “You have to be a team and you have to work together. It’s the same aspects in choir. You have to know your part, when to back off and when to be in the foreground. And to follow somebody’s lead. In football, they follow the quarterback. The choir follows the conductor.”
And then Eldreth added something that no doubt would warm the heart of Eagles coach Nick Sirianni and football coaches everywhere.
“Like the coaches, we always talk about it after a concert or performance,” she said. “We go back, just like (football coaches) go back, and watch their tapes to see what they did right, and how they can improve. There are a lot of similarities between sports and singing in a choir.
“I would take 100 (Mailatas) in my choir. He’s just awesome.”
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.