CHARLOTTE – Efe Obada was waiting for someone to stop him.
The defensive end arrived at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday – otherwise known as cut day across the NFL – fearing the worst.
“Walking in and getting released is what I’m used to,” Obada said. “I was walking in and making eye contact with everyone. No one spoke to me. I didn’t say anything to nobody. I made it to my locker and they still hadn’t stopped me or said anything.
“Coach Rivera eventually came over to me and I was like, ‘Is it real?’
“I’m so happy. I’m going to enjoy this. I’ve been working very hard just to feel this.” Efe Obada
Obada made the 53-man roster, becoming the first player from the NFL's International Pathway Program to make a final roster.
“It hasn’t set in. I don’t even know. I’m grateful,” Obada said, struggling to find the words to express his pure joy. “You know when you really want something and you get it and you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness. Like, what?’
“I’m so happy. I’m going to enjoy this. I’ve been working very hard just to feel this.”
Obada’s journey is incredible. He was born in Nigeria, and when he was 10 years old, he and his sister were trafficked to the United Kingdom from the Netherlands and abandoned on London streets before social services stepped in.
At college, he discovered American football and decided to give it a try for the first time at 22, playing with the London Warriors of the BAFA National League.
NFL scouts were intrigued, and the Cowboys signed Obada to their practice squad in 2015. He spent time with the Chiefs and Falcons in 2016 before being assigned to Carolina as part of the International Pathway Program ahead of the 2017 season, which he spent entirely on the practice squad.
His goal entering 2018 was to take that next step and make the active roster.
“I’ve lost a lot to get here. I’ve had to sacrifice a lot. I’ve been through a lot,” Obada said. “All the suffering paid off. I want to make those people who believed in me proud.
“Everyone in the international program, everybody that has helped me and created a platform for people like me to be here – this has changed my life.
“But I know that this is just the beginning.”
Indeed it is.
Obada, perhaps more than anyone, deserves this moment of celebration. But they say the NFL stands for “Not For Long” for a reason.
He’s got a spot. Now Obada’s got to do everything he can to keep it.
“Coach E (defensive coordinator Eric Washington) told me it’s going to be harder to hold onto it than it was to obtain it. And I know how hard I worked to obtain it,” Obada said. “If anything happens, I know that because of the training here and the environment I’ve been in, I can go anywhere and survive. This has instilled the belief in myself that I needed.”