Britain’s flagbearer in the NFL, Efe Obada, signed with the Washington Commanders ahead of the 2022 season to reunite with former coach Ron Rivera
Image: USA TODAY Sports)
British NFL star Efe Obada has signed with the Washington Commanders for the 2022 season in a ‘full circle’ moment for the defensive end.
In 2018, Obada became the first player from the International Pathway Program to earn a 53-man roster spot in the NFL. He joined the Carolina Panthers and, under the leadership of Ron Rivera, established himself as a genuine threat to opposition quarterbacks.
Obada sacked the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady in 2020 before moving to the Buffalo Bills, where he experienced the playoffs for the first time. Unfortunately, the Bills crashed out at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs – but Obada has now landed at the place he perhaps always wanted to be.
The 29-year-old praised Rivera’s influence and the culture he creates within an organisation as the key factors in his choice to move to the capital of the United States. Obada believes Rivera is a true role model who creates the perfect environment to deliver success and develop both on and off the field.
“He obviously gave me my start in the NFL and the opportunity to showcase what I felt I was capable of,” Obada said just one day after his move to the Commanders was confirmed. “Regrettably, I felt like I should have made the decision earlier – but I didn’t want to make the same mistake. It feels like a good fit, and I want to just be a part of the culture he creates.
“I was very adamant that there wasn’t any other team that I wanted to play for, and I didn’t want to play for any other coach.”
Obada looks forward to bringing the experience he has gained during his time in the NFL to the defensive line, which includes young stars in Chase Young and Montez Sweat. The Brit hopes his work ethic and desire to impact scenarios can provide solid depth for the Commanders as they look to make the playoffs in 2022.
As American football continues to grow in the United Kingdom, Obada has found himself become somewhat of a trailblazer, particularly as he forged an NFL career for himself despite not attending college. Obada – who appeared in 10 games for the Bills, registering 3.5 sacks and three tackles for loss in 2021 – spoke of a stunning moment back in London where he realised the growth of the NFL on British shores.
“My wife told me she was outside the house and a bunch of kids were playing American football,” Obada continued. “One of them fumbled the ball and he was getting picked on, but he said, ‘You watch, I’m going to be the next Efe Obada’.
“I thought London was my escape from football and nobody knows anything, nobody knows me – but now it’s growing.”
Obada’s remarkable rise is well-documented as he overcame a difficult childhood to make it across the Atlantic. He played for the London Warriors in the British American Football Association (BAFA) National Leagues for five games before he was scouted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 after a recommendation from their now-defensive line coach Aden Durde.
The Nigeria-born star’s infectious bellowing laugh took centre stage as he jovially recalled a story when he lined up in the slot as a receiver, only to set himself up in a three-point defensive stance to the amusement of his teammates. Obada’s grounded outlook means he is the perfect unassuming face of the rise of American football in the UK.
“I picked up the sport fairly late, and now you got these 14-16 year old kids who are just so excited about this game,” Obada said. “Obviously, there’s lack of opportunities, and that’s something that hopefully will change over time – but I don’t feel like a trailblazer.
“American football wasn’t known or appreciated, but now the younger generation have gone from playing FIFA to Madden. That’s amazing to me.”
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The future can wait for now, though. Obada has his eyes set on finding success with the Commanders, which is the new name of the Washington Football Team following the franchise’s re-branding efforts. The Brit’s philosophy is one of continuous self-development built on an insatiable hunger for success in order to bring value to the team – and he doesn’t take a second for granted. Obada will never forget the impact the game of American football has had on his life.
“I know the NFL stands for ‘not for long’ and there are people on the couch waiting for this opportunity,” Obada concludes. “I feel like if I dedicate my life and everything to this game, it’s going to pay dividends – and it has. My life has changed. My family’s life has changed.
“There are thousands of kids trying to get to this point, but I’ve managed to stay around the NFL to provide for my family – and that’s my greatest achievement.”