Efe Obada gets game ball after sack, INT in NFL debut


As far as NFL debuts go, it's hard to beat Efe Obada's first game.

The Nigerian-born Panthers defensive end earned a sack and an interception of Andy Dalton in Carolina's 31-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm over the moon," Obada said after getting the game ball, via the team's official website. "Words can't describe how I feel right now. I'm still filled with adrenaline."

Obada became the first player from NFL International Pathway program to make a 53-man roster earlier this year, and the first to see action in a game on Sunday. In addition to the sack and interception on a tipped pass, Obada nearly earned a sack-fumble on a play that was overturned. He'll take credit for pressuring the quarterback into an incompletion.

"I wanted to show this team what I have to offer," Obada said. "This team is like my family to me. I'm happy how supportive they are. They see the hunger in me. They see the uphill battle I had to climb in order to get here."

The 26-year-old Obada has overcome a lifetime of struggles to get to the NFL stage. Born in Nigeria, but moved to the Netherlands at 8 years old. After two years he and his sister were sent to England, where the two eventually ended up on the street and then in foster care.

Four years ago, Obada took part in an American football practice in London and his athleticism caught an eye. He spent some time with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad in 2015 and tooled around with the Chiefs and Falcons in the summer of 2016.

The NFL's International Pathway program, started last year, provided the first big boost to Obada's career. The program, which grants teams an extra practice squad job for certain international players, allowed Obada to stick with the Panthers.

This year the pass rusher forced his way on to the final roster with an impressive training camp and preseason.

When the injuries mounted for the Panthers heading into Sunday's game, Obada got his first taste of real action. He didn't disappoint.

"I don't want to go into it, but being at such a disadvantage in life and then being put in a position like this, you value it way more than some people do," he said Sunday. "That hunger is what keeps me going."

It's still a work in progress for Obada. As with all young players he's still learning the intricacies of football, but his raw talent has given him a shot.

"[Coach] Ron [Rivera] has seen something in Efe since Day 1," GM Marty Hurney told ESPN. "His work ethic is incredible. He's got length. He's got pass-rush skill set. For a guy to come in, make the plays he did on this stage, for the little amount of football he's played, look at the upside."

Hopefully the NFL's International Pathway program will lead to more chances for foreign-born athletes to carve out a career in pro football.

"I'm happy, but I don't want to be a one-hit wonder," Obada said. "I want to start creating that momentum and just keep going. I'm going to go back in the lab, prepare for the next opponent and go after it."