New face on Carolina Panthers defense leaves lasting impression

Cindy Davis Carolina Panthers Reporter

By Cindy Davis // XO_CindyDavis

Panthers 31 – Bengals 21

The 2-1 Carolina Panthers defeated the now 2-1 Cincinnati Bengals Sunday 31-21. The Panthers recorded a great team win heading into their bye week, and redeemed themselves following a disappointing defensive performance that lead to a loss last week.

While quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey both had impressive days on offense, there was one new name that especially stood out on defense.  That name is linebacker Efe Obada.

If you’re like me, you have never heard Efe Obada’s name until yesterday. That’s because yesterday was Obada’s first NFL start. Despite that, number 94 looked like a veteran and went on the field with the intention to make a name for himself.

Despite only playing in 29% of the team snaps, Obada recorded one sack for a loss of ten yards and caught one interception during the game. He also tackled  QB Andy Dalton as he was throwing, forcing what at first look appeared to be a fumble. The fumble was then reversed and called an incomplete pass, but Obada was left applying pressure and recording a QB hit. In the locker room, 94’s performance impressed his teammates and coach so much that he was awarded one of the game balls.

So how did this mystery player get to where he is today?  Obada spent all of the 2017 season on the Panthers practice squad after being assigned to the team by the NFL’s international player pathway program. Prior to being on the Panthers practice squad, he spent some time on the Cowboy’s practice squad and was signed by both Kansas City and Atlanta.

Despite being signed, he never saw his name on a 53 man roster until this season. While inactive for the first two games, Obada realized this was his opportunity to shine when he arrived in the locker room and discovered his active status and a game day jersey waiting for him.

To make Obada’s NFL story even more fascinating, he was born in Nigeria and trafficked to the UK with his sister from his home in the Netherlands when he was 10 years old. Shortly after arriving in London, he was abandoned and left homeless.

Growing up in and out of foster homes and with all odds seemingly stacked against him, he taught himself the game while working as a part-time security guard. He began playing in the British American Football League in 2014. That year, he played 5 games with the London Warriors where he alternated between both tight end and defensive end.

In November, ahead of the Jaguars vs Cowboys game in London, Obada was asked to work out as a tight end for the Cowboys. While he never officially made their team, he was signed to the practice squad where he received the publicity he needed to get noticed around the NFL.

Following Sunday’s victory, Obada was seen around the locker room with a big smile on his face looking ecstatic after receiving his game ball. He was quoted in the locker room to say “I’m over the moon. Words can’t describe how I feel. But I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder. I want to go back in the lab, I want to prepare for the next opponent, and I’m going to get after it.” He has the potential to be a major weapon on defense and his player development should be exciting to see in the weeks to come.

 

Talk Panthers with Cindy on Twitter @XO_CindyDavis

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