Unlike most players in the NFL who have been dreaming to play at the highest level since they were kids, Efe Obada found football at 22 and it changed his life forever.
Obada was born in Nigeria, and at the age of 10, he and his sister were brought to London where they were homeless until they began living in numerous foster homes. But this isn't the story Obada wants written about him. At this point in his career, Obada just wants to be known as a football player.
"As the years keep adding on, and as I'm applying myself and making my sacrifices in order to close that gap, I definitely want to be known as a player now," Obada said. "I don't really want to be known as a story or a good time. I just want to be known for my work and what I bring to the team, and how I can affect winning."
Obada's football career started in 2014 in London where he played for the Warriors in the British American Football Association. After working out for the Cowboys while the team was in London, he spent some time in Dallas before spending time with the Chiefs and Falcons in the 2016 offseason.
The NFL's International Player Pathway Program brought Obada to Carolina in 2017 where he was a member of the practice squad and was able to learn more about the intricacies of the game. The 2018 season was when Obada started to make some noise as he was the first player from the pathway program to make a 53-man roster. His production on the field also started to ramp up and during his time in Carolina, Obada had 50 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble.
This past offseason, Obada got to test free agency for one of the first times in his career. A big reason that he chose to come to Buffalo was defensive line coach Eric Washington. In Carolina, Washington served as Obada's defensive line coach in 2017 and was the defensive coordinator for Obada throughout 2018 and 2019. Obada is grateful for all that Washington has done for him and noted that there aren't many coaches with the same mentality as him.
"His impact and his input in my career and my development was huge, and it's probably one of the only reasons why I chose to come here," Obada said. "As a guy that came from London and just not being able to get the reps or not being seen as a guy that could contribute immediately, Eric Washington didn't take that approach as opposed to other coaches I've experienced. He cares about your career, and he cares about you as a person. That's really why, whatever happens, I know I'm going to get better from this experience. And no matter what, I'm going to be able to survive in this league and achieve what I need to achieve."
Bills defensive linemen Star Lotulelei, Vernon Butler, and Mario Addison all played with Obada for a year or longer back in Carolina. The familiar faces in the building have helped the defensive lineman adjust to life on a new team. Addison has been captivated by Obada's ability to learn so much about the game in a short period of time.
"One thing I'll say about him is he's very coachable," Addison explained. "He's willing to learn. I taught him this one move that he kind of perfected. He does it almost better than me. … From a guy not playing football as long as I did and can get out there and do everything I can do, probably can do it better, it shows what kind of tremendous character he has."
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Obada and Addison played for three seasons together in Carolina and the two are thrilled to be teammates once again. Addison described Obada as a beast and Obada has looked at Addison as a pass-rush guru from who he has learned a lot.
"Mario was someone in the early stages of my career that I read up on," Obada said. "Similar backgrounds. He got his success fairly late in his career as well. Started breaking through and getting the recognition that he deserves from the league and some teams. And when he was in there, we were working together, he was a mentor to me at some stages, and now I'm just running with it."
The Bills coaching staff values versatility and the more positions a defensive lineman can learn will only help their chances of making the final roster. Obada was brought in because he can play both inside and outside along the defensive line. Leslie Frazier has been impressed by what he has seen from Obada so far in training camp.
"I talked to him also about being able to play a little bit inside, play some outside, because he has that type of versatility," Frazier said earlier in camp. "He's one of those guys that we're counting on to be able to move around a little bit and try to create some mismatches along the way. … If he stays healthy, we think he's a guy who can really give us quality depth and create some problems for offenses."
Obada prides himself on being able to lineup anywhere along the defensive line and thinks it adds an extra element to his game. After Monday's practice, Obada explained the difference between playing inside versus outside against the offensive linemen.
"I think everything happens now, playing inside like the tempo is quicker," Obada said "But I have a bit more twitch and a bit more like I can react quicker than the guards inside. So, I'm able to just beat them on the line. I think outside, there's more time and you have to set up your rushes and if you don't get off right or miss time your moves, it's easier to get stalled. But inside I feel like it's easier because I'm quicker than most guards."