SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Bills running back Christian Wade caused a stir when he scored on a 65-yard run on his first-ever touch in the NFL last week, igniting the conversation about international players eager to make names for themselves in the United States.
Efe Obada has been down that road before.
The Panthers defensive end was born in Nigeria and trafficked to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands before being left homeless in London at age 10.
Fast forward to 2015, when Obada’s life changed as he signed with the Cowboys practice squad on the recommendation of his former coach after less than a year of playing American football in England. He also spent time with the Chiefs and Falcons before being assigned to the Panthers before the 2017 season as part of the league’s International Player Pathway Program.
Now in his third NFL season with plenty of experience under his belt — and a new contract after he earned an extension in January — Obada, 27, reflected on the biggest challenge he faced before becoming the first player from the International Pathway Program to make a final roster in 2018.
“Learning the game, first of all,” Obada told Stats Perform Wednesday as the Panthers wrapped up training camp here with their second joint practice with the Bills. “And just speeding up the process.”
Added Obada: “I think initially, because I’m not coming out of high school, college and things like that, just learning the transition and also I learn to trust my NFL teammates and also the coaches. You got to come from that ‘oh, the international guy doesn’t know the game’ and learning the game to a guy that knows what he’s doing and can be trusted.”
Wade, who at 28 also is part of the International Pathways Program, broke out in a different and much more rapid form as he turned heads by bolting down the field last Thursday in the preseason opener against the Colts.
But Obada, who was “so happy” seeing a fellow Englishman be successful on the field, credited Wade’s experience playing rugby as one of the reasons his skills transferred so smoothly.
“Christian is already a pro, he was a pro long before I was,” Obada said. “We just bounce off each other.”
While he is hopeful he and Wade can pave the way for other international prospects for years to come, Obada highlighted the importance of hard work and having confidence that things will work out.
“Just trust the process,” Obada said.