Just a few years ago, Efe Obada was a security guard in southern England who had just started playing American football. Now he’s part of the Carolina Panthers’ 53-man roster for the 2018 NFL season, having become the first product of the league’s International Pathway program to make a team’s active roster since the program started last year.
The news of the 26-year-old Obada making the Carolina Panthers‘ regular-season roster was announced Saturday on the team’s official website, as he and second-generation NFL player Bryan Cox Jr. beat out Daeshon Hall, a third-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft, for roster spots at defensive end. It was also noted that Obada became the first out of the four players included in last year’s inaugural International Pathway batch to make an NFL team’s 53-man roster.
Before he was chosen for the International Pathway program, Efe Obada lived a checkered life that saw him separated from his mother and trafficked from his birth country of Nigeria into England when he was only 10-years-old. According to a 2015 report from The Guardian, Obada dealt with homelessness in his youth and had a “tough upbringing” when he finally found a home in England through the help of his mother’s contacts.
“When you haven’t got stability, you don’t trust people – you know where you’re living is not permanent and it’s not real and you feel they’re just getting paid to look after you,” Obada told NFL UK in 2015.
“It made me angry. I developed a lot of anger. It made me a negative and pessimistic person. I didn’t really believe in myself and because I never had that family stability it led me to turn to friends in the area and that led me into gangs and running with the wrong people.”
By the time he reached his early 20s, Efe Obada was working as a security guard in Welwyn Garden City and began playing American football for the London Warriors, as noted by The Guardian. While he only started playing the sport in 2014 at the age of 22, he attracted the attention of the Dallas Cowboys, who signed him to their training camp team in the spring of 2015.
A separate NFL UK report noted that Obada made it to the Cowboys’ practice team, but was eventually cut. He also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons but had yet to play a down in the NFL regular season at the time he was included in the International Pathway program in 2017.
While Efe Obada had an interesting road to the NFL, it’s still unclear what role he may have as part of the Carolina Panthers’ defensive line. Veterans Mario Addison and Julius Peppers will be returning for the 2018 season, but the team will also be playing without one of their two starting ends from last year, as Charles Johnson announced his retirement from pro football last month after 11 seasons with the Panthers.